About a week ago Vicky and I set out to plant tulips in the bookshop bed…Owing to the narrowness of the plot, and the grasses there being tightly spaced, it made sense to uproot everything in order to simplify the bulb planting process.
The grasses (Stipa tenuissima) and salvias (Salvia ‘Indigo Spires’ and Salvia confertiflora) were carefully prised from the ground, potted up and moved to safety; some of them could then be returned later.
The tulips selected were different in colour from the ones already present, which meant unearthing the old bulbs for use elsewhere, a process that involved removing soil; this in turn created a suitably deep base for planting.
Tulipa ‘Spring Green’, Tulipa ‘Shirley’ and Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’ were chosen for this bed. Before proceeding, bulbs with signs of disease or damage were rejected then around 140 healthy new bulbs were thoroughly jumbled up.
To avoid obvious lines or patterns the new bulbs were distributed much as seeds are scattered, and were planted where they fell (or moved if too close); this was intended to create a naturalistic effect.
It is best to plant tulips from mid- to late autumn when the weather is cold to prevent the spread of tulip fire, a fungal disease. A planting depth of two or three times the bulb’s height and spacing of at least twice the bulb’s width is advised.
Once safely in position the bulbs were buried and the soil worked flat. Note that in clay or sand you can incorporate organic matter, and in poor soils consider adding nutrients.
Some of the original plants were reinstated to avoid leaving the bed bereft of interest. Any gaps could be filled with bedding, or the whole area mulched for a tidier appearance.
The remaining new bulbs went to areas that had not previously included tulips. Spreading them thinly meant that a large area could be covered to provide a broad-reaching display.
The task complete, we can look forward to a striking show in spring when these plants reveal their colourful goblet-like flowers.
Tom Whalley, Assistant Gardener