Inspiration and ideas from your own gardens
It has to be done
Planting for the 2021 Shows feels a little weird. I first worked at the Chelsea Flower Show at the grand age of 10 all the way back in 1972 filling the vases with water. Two years later I was joined by my brother and it seems our lifetime mission was born. Our toast today is still “to the watering cans”. Hundreds of hours of work go into producing the show displays, let us hope that all goes ahead as planned and we can all enjoy these beautiful bulbs next spring. I must admit that we both felt strangely lost when the 2020 shows were cancelled.
Tulips are the highlight of our spring show. Their vibrant colours create a magnificent effect after the dark winter days and even a few groups dotted around transform our garden. The most common question that we are asked about tulips is: “should I leave them in year to year, or do I really have to lift them?”
There is no right or wrong answer. My father always said they should be treated as annuals but if leaving them undisturbed has worked for you do not change anything, they are obviously quite happy in their current position, even if you need to top them up by 20% each year. The most important and essential elements of a successful Spring garden is in the preparation stage, the soil requires a good working over to ensure good drainage and aeration, nothing grows without oxygen.
Below are my own recommendations but in truth, it depends very much on your soil conditions and planting aspect.
In the Border
If you are only planting small groups, my advice would be to treat them as annuals. Shallow planting (a ground depth of 7-10cm, 3 to 4 inches) is perfectly adequate and the job of lifting the bulbs after flowering is made easy.
If you plan to leave the bulbs in the ground plant a little deeper (12-15cm, 5 to 6 inches). The big advantage of deeper planting is to minimise the number of offset bulbs produced; more energy is devoted to feeding next year’s flower bulb. To successfully keep tulips year on year they do need a dry sunny aspect during the summer months. Tulips planted in shade or semi-shade will flower slightly later and last longer.
Pots Containers and Show Borders
These areas tend to be the focal points of the garden and here I would always recommend planting new season bulbs. The size of the bulb ultimately determines its flowering performance. Since we want to create an impact, we are looking for a large uniform sized flower head and an even plant height.
After the growing season, these bulbs can easily be lifted and stored to be planted for cutting or used in the border the following autumn.
Enjoy your garden,
Paul and Chris Blom