A field of tulips in the Netherlands. Photo / 123rf
We at Springvale Garden Center love gardening and sharing that with others. We are at the moment partway through the 2022 School Vege Challenge where schools throughout Whanganui have signed up and been given a
starter pack to grow a vegetable garden.
The schools face numerous challenges which can beset a school garden from drought, vandalism, pests, student and teacher absences and this year is a tough one for some.
However, with the aim being to get kids involved in gardening, any challenge is an opportunity to learn. One of the things keen gardeners know is that it feels good to plant and grow things.
This week we have had hundreds of packets of tulip bulbs arrive in the store. If you have never grown tulips before then come and grab a few packets and enjoy the feelings gained from planting some flowers!
Tulips immediately make me think of pictures I have seen of Holland, with fields of tulips and windmills. While this is a common association, tulips actually originate from central Asia.
There are about 150 ‘Wild’ species many historically found along the Russian and Chinese border all the way along to France and Spain. They first captured the interest of the Turks in the Ottoman empire around 1000AD where they were cultivated for their beauty.
Tulips got to Holland in the 1500s when De Busbecq, the ambassador to the court of the Sultan Suleiman in Constantinople, the seat of the Ottoman (Turkish) empire, gave some tulip bulbs from Central Asia to a botanist named Carolus Clusius working at the University of Leiden in Holland.
Many in Holland had seen paintings of tulips and the bulbs became sought after. From 1634 to 1637 prices for tulip bulbs skyrocketed and a period now known as Tulipomania was experienced.
is reported at the peak of this interesting phenomenon a single tulip bulb sold for 10x the annual income of a skilled artisan (craftsperson producing cheese, wine or a handyman). There are also reports of a famous sale of a single bulb for the equivalent of US$2250 plus a horse and carriage.
The bubble burst and the cost of the bulbs became more reflective of the intrinsic value of producing a tulip bulb. However, the love for tulips by the Dutch did not decrease and today they have one of the best-organised production and export businesses of tulips in the world.
With a fascination for centuries, tulips today are a result of much hybridising, and the range of sizes, colors and flower styles is varied. They are as spectacular as ever. In the home garden here, I find it hard to resist planting a few tulip bulbs at every house that I have lived in over the years.
Tulips are easy to grow. Buy a few packets of bulbs now – dig a hole and bung them in!
There are a few different ways tulips can be treated and it’s worth having a go and see what works for you.
Tulips come naturally from Central Asia where they experience a cool winter period. This causes a process called vernalisation which can sometimes be important to give good flowering.
The process of vernalisation can be replicated easily by the home gardener placing purchased bulbs into the fridge for four weeks before planting them out into the garden. Prior to planting it is great to enrich the soil with ‘Tui Sheep Pellets’,’ Ican Premium Compost’ and ‘Tui Bulb Food’ ensuring all is well mixed in together. If you are growing in pots then using a specialty mix such as ‘Tui Bulb Mix’ will offer excellent results.
They should be planted at a depth of 1.5 times the height of the bulbs. Then a few weeks later foliage will start to appear through the soil. The varieties vary in the timing of their flowering but generally are within the period of August to September.
When the bulbs finish flowering they should be fertilized as this active growing period is when the bulb stores up reserves which will determine the success of next year’s flowering.
The foliage should be left actively growing and the temptation to remove foliage should be avoided and it left to completely die off itself during the summer. Once this has happened the textbook would tell you to lift the bulbs and store them in a cool dry position with good airflow (a tray/ box in the shed) until refrigeration in March/April and planting out four weeks later.
Some will treat tulip bulbs like annuals simply removing them after flowering and throwing them away, councils will often do this with public displays.
Others such as myself simply leave them in the garden. Despite the mild winters we have here in Whanganui I have found that 80 per cent of the tulips I plant will come back and flower each year without being lifted or refrigerated again.
I do recommend that to succeed in doing this ‘lazy’ method, they need to be planted in a free-draining position which lessens the likelihood of the bulbs rotting. Fertilising twice a year with ‘Tui Bulb Food’, firstly as they emerge through the soil and again as they finish flowering will help encourage good flowering when using the ‘lazy’ method for tulip growing!
So, as I said earlier in the piece, if you have never grown tulips before then come and grab a few packets and enjoy the feelings gained from planting some flowers!
I spotted this quote while researching for this article which is very adaptable for gardening.
“If you attempt it and get it right you succeed, If you attempt it and get it wrong you learn, If you don’t attempt it at all, you fail.”
Have a good week.
• Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre.