Maybe the title is a little misleading. It’s not that we don’t have a bunch of beautiful tulips. It’s just that we don’t have as many as I feel we ought to have.
Back in 2019, after the driveway was redone, I planted 200 Tulips that were recommended as reasonably perennial. There were 40 each of 5 varieties. Of these, three were old favorites: ‘Ballerina’ (a Lily-Flowering Tulip), ‘Princess Irene’, and ‘Couleur Cardinal’ (both Single Earlies). Another two were new to us: ‘Parade’ (a Giant Darwin Hybrid) and ‘Helmar’ (a Triumph Tulip).
Prior to this I had gone through a number of years planting hybrid or standard garden Tulips only in containers. These I treated as annuals, planting new ones every year. For beds and borders I mainly limited myself to the smaller, hardier Species Tulips. However, I got tired of all the work involved in overwintering the containers, and decided to give hybrid Tulips another try in the borders, basically in the Driveway and Parkway Borders.
What I imagined was masses of Tulips, but that’s not what I got. Instead, I got Tulips dotted among the other plants. I will say that for dotting, orange and red do very nicely. Tulips dotted through the borders look nice, but they are not jaw-dropping.
The Tulips planted in 2019 are not turning out to be as perennial as I had hoped. In fact, I counted the blooms I got this year for each variety and here are the numbers (remember, I planted 40 of each):
- ‘Parade’: 21
- ‘Ballerina’: 21
- ‘Princess Irene’: 14
- ‘Helmar’: 7
- ‘Couleur Cardinal’: 6
I should stress here that the Species and Kaufmanniana Tulips, most of which are earlier than the standard garden Tulips, have had a fine season.
But for the hybrid Tulips, that’s a total of 69 blooms from 200 bulbs after two years. OK, I know. Hybrid Tulips are not supposed to be very perennial. I was just hoping for more. Not sure if the results are worse because of site conditions or our recent weather, including a dry, cold spring.
I’m fairly confident that losses due to rabbits and squirrels were pretty minimal, thanks to interplanting with Daffodils and liberal applications of Irish Spring soap. On the other hand, a fair number of Tulips did send up leaves without buds. Also I thought ‘Princess Irene’ and ‘Couleur Cardinal’ looked rather puny compared to the ones I grew in containers.
Though another funny thing is that however well the Tulips fared, this has been a fantastic spring for Daffodils.
So what now? Well, I’m not going to stop planting Tulips. I just love them too much. Going forward, I’m thinking I will: 1) plant more Species Tulips, both in the borders and in containers, with an emphasis on naturalizing varieties; 2) replenish the number of one or two favorite hybrid varieties with 20 or so bulbs each year; 3) go back to planting just a few containers with hybrid Tulips, and experiment with less labor-intensive means of overwintering.
In summary, my answer to problems with my Tulips is MORE TULIPS.
I’ll leave you with one last item. In counting the Tulip blooms, I found I had 8 flowers of the Giant Darwin Hybrid variety ‘Banja Luka’. Checking my records, such as they are, I found that I had planted ‘Banja Luka’ in 2014 – seven years ago! How many I planted I can’t determine, but still! And I’ve been mostly ignoring this Tulip all that time. Just goes to show something, but not sure what.
How are your Tulips doing this year?