We had a very mild winter in the South East. At the end of February we had temperatures just nudging 20°C. It looked like the tulips were going to be exceptionally early this year.
Nature has a way of correcting herself. If she overreaches, she seems to reflect, to modify her trajectory, and somehow get back on track.
And so, in the second week of April, as always, I am beside myself with anticipation for the arrival of the tulips.
I have planted my three raised beds with tulips this year. This was a ‘sort-of-accident’.
I had planned to replenish my bright border with tulips. After three years, tulip stocks tend to diminish. The blooms come up much smaller, and some bulbs come up ‘blind’ with just a couple of leaves and no flower.
We had a dry autumn, and I found it utterly impossible to get a spade into my hard-baked clay. An easier task by far was to plant the tulip bulbs into my raised beds (you can see the process in ‘Dig Deep’ here).
To get the longest life out of tulip bulbs, especially if you garden on clay, plant deep (30cm is ideal) and mix in loads of horticultural grit. This will both help drainage (bulbs hate wet) and will deter pesky little munchers like mice and slugs. It also serves a very useful purpose, if like me, you forget where you planted bulbs. If you start to dig a patch of earth and you encounter a load of grit, you know that that’s where your bulbs are. Hopefully before you’ve put your spade through them.
My ‘sort-of-accident’ involved a second and then a third order of tulips. The first batch was a much-planned bulk-buy from JP Parkers Wholesale. My second batch was the inevitable slip-of-the-thumb clicking on Sarah Raven. The third was just blatant greediness, from Gee-Tee Bulbs.
The result is a lot of tulips in these raised beds. I am envisioning a slightly scaled-down Dutch tulip field. My very own Keukenhof.
But the tulips are still being shy!
We have had over a week of very little sunshine. There has been a mellow fug over our part of the world. It is like stepping out of the shower to find the bathroom all steamed up. It is not unpleasant; it just doesn’t inspire you to strip off and start sunbathing.
Hence this ‘Black Parrot’ tulip clutching the towel around himself.
Tulip ‘Antraciet’ is one of my absolute favourites. When it colours up, it will be the most magnificent cherry red. For now she is clinging tightly to her layers, and keeping her thoughts to herself.
‘Margarita’ has taken the plunge. Though she may be reconsidering. Here she is, looking a little wistful.
She too has marvellous depths of tone, with shades of plum, raspberry and watermelon. I can’t wait to see her in the sun.
‘Princes Irene’ is looking on, wondering whether to join her. She’s just twitching her shoulder, as if about to shrug off her cape.
The bravest soul is ‘Blue Diamond’.
As with all supposedly blue tulips, this is a misnomer. I am told that this decidedly pink tulip will take on a silvery lilac tone as it ages.
Which will look rather fetching with this self-sown borage, just seated at the edge of one of the raised beds.
Here is the rose garden. Last year’s tulip, ‘Ronaldo’, is looking rather fetching with the wallflowers ‘Sunset Series’ (you can find out more about sowing biennials to accompany tulips here).
Erysimum ‘Sunset Series’ comes up in vintage tones of rose pink,
and creamy peach:
If growing biennials seems a bit of a faff, I would stick with the tulip’s perfect partner, new rose foliage.
Next week, I hope to bring you tulips in their prime. I think by then they will all be feeling brave enough to throw off their capes, and show us their true colours.
If my memory serves me correctly, I should have one raised bed of soft pinks and silvery lilac, one of warm apricots and oranges, and one of dark plum and magenta.
If you share a fetish for tulips, peonies, roses or dahlias, you might like to ‘follow’ The Mindful Gardener. I share my adventures in gardening, including top tips, and the little pops of wonder that inevitably happen when you spend a lot of time crouching in a flower-bed.
Your email address will be stored securely and will not be shared with third parties. My weekly post aims to replenish your energy, rather than being an annoyance.
Thank you for all the lovely messages last week. I started my new job, and I am really enjoying it. I have been checking on my seedlings in the greenhouse before work, and taking a walk around the garden each evening. There will be a little bit of weeding this weekend, but mainly just enjoying the tulips and the new growth.