I knew as soon as we moved to a cooler climate I would plant tulips. I’d never been able to successfully grow them in Sydney (humidity? microclimate?). So, after we moved, I had to learn about their requirements and tap into local knowledge.
May is tulip planting time in the Southern Highlands. I always take my cue from our local council’s gardeners; once they start planting the bulbs in Bowral’s Corbett Gardens, I know it’s time for me to plant.
This year, the gardeners planted more than 75,000 tulip bulbs for mass displays during Corbett Gardens’ Tulip Time, which opens to the public tomorrow. (I had a peek over the fence there this morning and saw that there were many yet to flower, so maybe a visit in a week or so would be better.) I haven’t planted anywhere near that number of bulbs in my garden but I am enjoying my own smaller display.
Buying tulip bulbs
You need to be organised when choosing tulip bulbs because the favourites sell out quickly. I usually buy mine between February and May. I’ve signed up for a few bulb catalogues and always get excited when a new one arrives in my email inbox or letterbox. Whether online or in print, the colourful photos always entice me.
I’ve bought tulips from these online suppliers: Lambley Nursery, Tesselaar, and Van Dieman’s Quality Bulbs. Have you bought from different Australian suppliers? Please let me know your recommendations.
So far, I’ve planted 60 in my garden. I was also surprised my first year here by existing tulips that woke from their winter slumber and shot up in unexpected places. Such a bonus – I didn’t know they were there. Once I saw their blooms unfurl each day in the sunshine and close up as the air cooled in the evening, I was fascinated.
Planting tulip bulbs
Tulips, like all bulbs, are easy to plant. Select bulbs that are firm. The flowers are already formed in the bulbs, which I think is magical.
Choose a spot in full sun or part shade that is protected from the wind. This will ensure the goblet-shaped flowers that grow on long stems won’t be damaged when flowering. If you plan to leave your bulbs in the ground to naturalise, a good spot for planting is under a deciduous tree or in combination with summer perennials.
Tulips thrive in the cold so plant them to a depth of three times the height of the bulb and about 10 centimetres apart. I’ve also read that deep planting encourages longer stems but I don’t know if that’s true. Plant the bulbs with the pointed tip upwards.
Water sparingly until growth starts, then you can feed the plants with a controlled-release fertiliser.
While mass plantings of tulips make stunning features, so do borders of these blooms along paths. Whatever layout you choose, you’ll be pleased when you enjoy your own ‘tulip time’ next spring.