Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Trouble With Tulips

It's time to be honest.  I am a tulipaholic.  Sure I love daffodils, and I've broadened my tastes to include other spring-flowering bulbs, like these Siberian scilla that are making their first appearance in my garden this year.

They've won me over, and I'll definitely be adding more of these this fall.

But nothing lifts my spirits and makes me so excited to step outside each spring morning as tulips do. Knowing the colorful show that will soon arrive makes the long winter bearable. Although I seem to lean towards pink, it really doesn't matter what color they are...

. . . from the soft white/pastel yellow of 'Vanilla Cream' . . .

. . . to the bright yellow of this NOID in the lily bed . . .

. . . to the bright red of 'Red Impression'...

. . . to the darkest of all, 'Queen of the Night' . . .

. . . to mixtures of different colors . . .I love them all.  In fact, I'm not sure there's a color of tulip I don't have somewhere in my garden.

Some might say that planting many tulips isn't worth all the effort because they're short-lived.  It's true--compared to many other bulbs like daffodils, for instance, tulips often don't last more than a few years.  I know I've been disappointed by some gorgeous tulips that failed to re-appear for a second season.  But choosing types of tulips that are longer-lived, like Darwin tulips, will give you more years of enjoyment and less work.  These 'Pink Impression' bulbs have been faithful performers in my garden for many years.

Last year I ordered a collection of tulips from Breck's called 'Forever,' which were promoted as having more longevity than ordinary tulips.  I planted them on what I whimsically refer to as "Daffodil Hill," which is not a hill at all, but a slightly sloping bare spot in front of a tall evergreen in front of the house.  They certainly look very strong and hardy this spring, which is a good thing, because planting tulips in this area with its heavy clay soil and thick tree roots is not something I want to do every year.

Sometimes other varieties can surprise you--my favorite tulip of all, 'Angelique,' has returned year after year.  In fact, I think it has multiplied!

But even if most tulips last for only a couple of years, there are some benefits to this.  My laxity in keeping garden records means I can't remember what I planted for more than a few years anyway.  These tulips in the lily bed have me stumped.  I remember planting some 'Fur Elise' here two or three years ago, but not this many.  There's a second clump north of these as well.  Either they've multiplied or once again I have some "DIPITs" (did I plant this??).

Knowing not all my tulips are going to return each year also gives me an excuse to indulge my addiction and buy some new ones every year.  I'm a sucker for showy doubles like this 'Double Maureen.'

Another spectacular double is 'Sun Lover,' which has blooms that are 5-6 inches in diameter!  Although I have been planting more and more of the more robust Darwins, I can't resist showstoppers like this.

'Double Maureens' with 'Sun Lovers' and other bulbs in the arbor bed.
Some people give up on planting tulips because either squirrels will dig up the bulbs or deer will eat the emerging leaves.  I can sympathize, though I've been very fortunate not to have either problem so far.  My only disappointment this year was in the roadside garden, where a new planting of mixed colors was a no-show.  It's possible the squirrels dug up these bulbs since their favorite hangout, the old oak tree, is nearby, and this small garden is far from Sophie's usual patrol.  But I suspect the lack of blooms here has more to do with the fact that this whole garden was in standing water for a week after the recent flooding here.  Tulip bulbs will rot if overwatered.

'Fur Elise' this week
Other gardeners can't grow tulips because of their warm climate.  I guess I should be thankful, then, for our cold winters and often chilly spring days.  The temperatures reached into the 80's for a few days, and you could just see the tulips starting to wilt in the heat.  More seasonable temps are predicted for the coming week, so hopefully the show will last a little longer.

Tulips may not last forever, but neither does childhood.  A day spent with youngest Grandson who just had to reach out to touch Grandma's blooms is a precious moment that will remain in my memory for years to come.

Possibly the most beautiful tulip ever, in my humble opinion--'Akebona' begins as a pale yellow, then opens up to a lemony delight with tinges of pink and red edging on its petals.

No, say what you will about the troubles with tulips, there is only one problem I can see with these Dutch beauties, and it's the same problem with all the blooms of spring--I wish they would last for months!  But knowing their time is fleeting, I truly live in the moment each spring and delight in each and every bloom.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever."


For last year's Asheville Fling attendees or anyone thinking of visiting this lovely North Carolina city, check out this link:     I was so excited when I received an email that one of my photos from last year's trip was included on their website as well as a link to my blog.  I'm ready to go back to Asheville again!


  1. Hi Rose...your tulips are just beautiful (I especially love the doubles!) and your grandson is cute as can I see a future gardener!!?? I don't have many tulips, but the ones I planted seven years ago still come up (although I swear they change colors from year to year.)

  2. Rose, I love tulips too and often don't remember where and when I've planted tulips. So when they are growing in different places it's a surprise for me! I love your photos, most of the cup shaped yellow tulips! (photo#11)

  3. For many years I didn't plant tulips, but finally, like you, I decided it was worth it even if they only lasted a season or two :-)

    Gorgeous photos as usual!

  4. I wrote about tulips myself in April. In the warm climate around Memphis, we treat tulips as annuals and just pull up the foliage. Wish they would come back. But I still plant them and love them. always worth it. Yours are just wonderful!

  5. Christy, I think I 've had tulips change colors, too. What surprises me most are the ones that seem to have multiplied--I didn't think tulips would spread.

  6. I love the variety of tulips that grace your yard. No wonder you love them so. They are beautiful.

  7. Your tulips are beautiful! I always mean to grow some in pots and always forget, which is a shame because they provide wonderful splashes of color.

  8. I love tulips too (my wedding bouquet was pink tulips)-- Queen of Night is my favorite, but that last yellow one you show is breathtaking. All your tulips are beautiful, and you are so lucky with them (voles and deer make them impossible here.)

  9. I too enjoyed Asheville. I would like to go back. Such fun. I love your tulip collection. I have few. I did get a pink double with a yellow center into a pot last fall. It has performed beautifully this spring. It makes me want to plant some more...even though they don't last.

  10. Such glorious tulips! I am not the biggst fan of tuliups, but I have to admit they do make for beautiful shows!

  11. What a nice show of tulips Rose! I seem to have planted too many daffodils and narcissus and not nearly enough tulips. I have read that the Darwin tulips last longer than other varieties. It is nice to know that there are other kinds of tulips that return as well. I love those double ones that you have planted and the yellow 'Akebona' especially.

  12. I love your doubles and Queen of the Night. I can not find that dark of a tulip anywhere. They all look amazing in your garden!

  13. Those doubles are quite lovely! I bet they multiplied on you. Let us know how the 'Forever' tulips do. Cute grandson and yes, what a sweet memory for you both!

  14. Tulips are lovely and have such an enormous variety of colours.
    I just wish they had a longer season and that they stayed alive longer when cut and put in a vase! (I know its a pity to do that though.)
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  15. Nadezda, Spring provides surprises for me, too. Even though I try to write down what I planted the year before, I always forget a few. I like these kinds of surprises!

    Cassi, Every spring I am reminded why it's worth it to brave the cold and get on my knees for hours in the fall to have this colorful display.

    Beth, The dying foliage is one thing I don't like about tulips, so you do have an advantage there, even if the tulips only last one season.

    Sally, I love going through the catalogs every fall to find some new and different tulips, which is why I have so many different kinds.

    Sweetbay, I've never grown tulips in pots before, but this year I might try them in a planter on my porch. I don't know why I've never thought of doing that before.

  16. Laurrie, The yellow Akebona is fast becoming my favorite--it's even more beautiful in person. I'm not sure why the deer leave things alone here, but I'm certainly thankful for it.

    Lisa, I've been reading all of Skeeter's posts about their weekend in Asheville. Brings back lots of fun memories!

    Myfrench kitches, When the tulips are in bloom, they are spectacular.

    Jennifer, The 'Pink Impressions', which are a type of Darwin, have really been reliable in coming back year after year. I've been planting a lot of different narcissus, too.

    Erin, 'Queen of the Night' is a pretty well-known tulip, I think. You should be able to find it in catalogs or online companies like Brent and Becky's bulbs.

    Tina, I think the doubles have multiplied, too--I know I have more 'Sunlovers' than I did last year. Wish I'd been faster with my camera to get the best picture of Grandson--he really was intrigued by the big tulips.

    Maggie, I agree, I just wish these blooms lasted forever. I never have the heart to cut them and bring them inside, though.

  17. Hey, maybe the squirrels dug them up and replanted them for you! Ha, but you never know. Maybe Sophie needs to broaden her horizons a bit to keep those rascal's at bay. I just love the bright colors of tulips and cannot get enough of them. With our mild winters, we see few Tulips in our area. I so enjoyed them at Biltmore. Congrats on Explore Asheville using a posting! How exciting....

  18. Wow, you sure have some lovely Tulips, Rose! I gave up on them years ago because we have a terrible rabbit problem here and not enough high-end predators. Rabbits love Tulips, but they don't eat Daffodils. So I've moved more in that direction. I'm so happy to see them on your blog, though!

  19. What a wonderful selection you have. The doublers almost look like peonies.

  20. Your tulips are stunning! I love the variety you showcase in your garden and used to plant them when we lived in Massachusetts but here the squirrels eat the tulips. A crazed neighbor got so fed up, he started shooting squirrels. I'll plant daffodils instead.

  21. There's something about tulips that is terribly elegant isn't there? I'm so glad to hear that your Angelique tulips keep coming back. I had these last year and they are beautiful. Hoping they continue to return.

  22. I came along your blog and saw some beautiful tulips. I just publiced a post about tulips too.
    Happy gardening and regards from Holland.

  23. What a beautiful selection of tulips you have in your garden. I'd love to grow more, but the pesky squirrels keep digging up my bulbs.

  24. Beautiful tulips, Rose!! I love them, too. However I had a run-in (run-out?) with critters a few years ago. They must have been very hungry... That Spring there was only one tulip left out of hundreds! And he was left due to having been surrounded by daffodil bulbs! I am sneaking back into the tulip arena, though. Little by little! Ha!

  25. Rose you have more luck with the tulips then I have living in a country with large bulbfields. The colors are beautiful.
    Have a wonderful day.

  26. Hi Rose, It's that time again! That time every year when your enthusiasm and passion for tulips leaps from the page. They are all so beautiful and just as I think I have picked a favourite...up pops another beauty :-) 'Pink impression' look so delicate and pretty against the grey rocks and I love all the doubles. Your photos are lovely too and the one of the backlit 'Red impression' is superb! Many congratulations regarding the Asheville website.

    I don't see Scillas grown here very much (maybe I'm just unobservant!) but my Mother grew them so I was transported back to my childhood when I saw yours :-) Your little Grandson is adorable by the way, it looks like your passion for tulips may be in the blood :-)

  27. They're gorgeous, Rose! Only the species tulips return for us here and even those haven't been reliable on my occasionally waterlogged corner of Katy. Dying bulb foliage bugs the heck out of me, though, and if I plant tulips, I can just yank them when they're done blooming!

  28. Skeeter, I don't think the squirrels dug up any bulbs close to the house, which is where all these garden areas are--Sophie wouldn't allow that:) She's been busy this spring making sure the rabbits don't get to my veggie garden. I told Del about all your posts, so you may soon get a mention, too.

    Plant Postings, see previous comment about Sophie:) My mother has been complaining about the rabbit problem there this spring. I don't know if Sophie or our cats who spend time outdoors each day are the reason the rabbits leave my garden alone, but I'm happy whoever is responsible.

    Liz, The double tulips are indeed so big they look like peony blooms.

    Sarah, I couldn't shoot squirrels no matter how pesky they can be, so I'd opt for daffodils, too. The biggest danger to tulips here is the lawnmower:)

    Marguerite, I know I plant a few more Angeliques each year, but not this many, so many of them have to be from past years. Some of them I know have been here for over 5 years.

    Janneke, Thank you for visiting--I so enjoyed seeing your tulip fields. And it was fun to see that we had some of the same varieties of tulips!

  29. Paula, Squirrels seem to be a common complaint here. I guess I have to thank my pets from keeping them at bay.

    Shady, Maybe the daffs can be bodyguards for your tulips:)

    Marijke, One thing that is different about our gardens is that I don't have sandy soil. I heard a Dutch bulb expert explain last fall that it was important to plant bulbs deep, but I don't think he'd ever attempted it in our heavy clay soil!

    Songbird, Yes, I am a happy person in the spring! The scilla are new this year, and I really like them. But I also planted some pink ones and haven't seen them come up anywhere. I keep hoping one of my grandchildren catch the gardening bug--my children don't seem to have any interest:)

    Cindy, The dying foliage bugs me, too, but as long as they come back, I'm not going to yank them out each year. I just try to pretend that ugly foliage isn't there:)

  30. Hello Rose girl !
    I have meant to come by and "chat" long before .. but it had been a mad house finally getting son down south with all of his possessions (mostly computer/gamer equipment) thankfully all has gone well .. phew!
    I have to say I am stuck on Ballerina tulip .. it lasts so long and looks so pretty .. but strangely enough, this year it looks more red than it does orange.
    So I am not sure what happened but husband really likes them so that is nice : )
    I am a daff person myself but forgot to take pictures of the front garden when they were in their glory .. I usually miss something during a season ? haha
    All of your tulips look lovely and that picture of your grandson reaching for the flower is too precious : )

  31. Hi Rose! I envy your ability to grow tulips outside of a fence! The deer and woodchucks would be the end of them here, so I satisfy myself with a very small patch protected inside the fenced vegetable garden. We've had a cool but fairly sunny spring, so the bulb blooms are lasting a nice long time.

    Loved that 'Akebona.' I'm writing it down to remember in the fall.

  32. You have so many lovely tulips! They are all so pretty, especially the doubles. I don't have much luck - mostly because of squirrels, but I still plant anyway.

    I agree - all tulips are beautiful. There isn't a colour I don't like.

  33. Your tulips are absolutely amazing. I love them. I don't really have them in my garden because I don't seem to be able to manage them very well, so I am thrilled to be on the Bridge of Flowers committee which has hundreds of tulips in the spring - and I feel it is almost a part of my own garden.

  34. I confess that I am a tulipholic as well, and you have given me my fix for the day. I am unable to plant tulips but in one well-protected bed. Otherwise, I would have them all over the garden. Your display is fantastic with amazing colors.

  35. I love bulbs for their willingness to bloom so early, and with so many pretty petals combinations.

    Sun Lover makes an impressive flower, more like a peony flower. My favourite tulips are the double pinks. I really like Foxtrot, for it's many pink petals, kind of like Angelique.

    That's such a cute shot of your grandson admiring the tulips in your garden. Those pink blooms look about half the size of his head.

  36. I enjoyed seeing your tulips, Rose. My favorite photo was the one with your precious grandson.


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