It’s November, which means it’s the perfect time to get planting some tulips which will brighten up your garden next year! Georgie Newbery gives us some handy hints on how to get the best flowers blooming in The Flower Farmer’s Year: How to grow cut flowers for pleasure and profit:
Tulips get an extra-long entry in this section, as they’re likely to represent quite a big part of your bulb spend – and because they’re such favour-ites of mine. The points I make here about permanent underplanting, buying cheaper elsewhere, and so on, might equally be applied to other bulbs, but I’ve chosen to make them in relation to tulips.
When ordering, check for height: the stem length doesn’t have to be 50cm (1’8″), but less than 30cm (12″) will be less use to you. If you’re planning to naturalize your tulips in a bed, then it’s difficult to cut a shorter-stemmed tulip in such a way that the foliage is left undamaged to help feed next year’s flower bud. In my experience, the later the tulip flowers, the longer its stem. However, a tulip flowering in mid- to late May is a great deal less use than one flowering in April, when tulips can be the main crop in your cut-flower garden. By May, people have had enough of tulips, and they compete unsuccessfully with peonies, the first roses and sweet peas.
Plant tulips late to avoid disease – November is the best month, as a good burst of cold weather before they start shooting helps kill off diseases. Tulip fire will burn the leaves of your tulips and turn the flowers into twisted, odd-looking specimens no good for sale. In a mild winter, tulip fire is a risk that all growers fear. I’ve been talking to our bulb supplier in the past week, and she’s concerned because this year we’ve not had any cold weather to kill off disease in tulip bulbs.
Tulips cut with still-tightly-closed buds, packed flat in boxes out of water and stored in the cool, will keep for a week if you need to hold them back for a special order. When you take them out of storage, condition them by snipping the stems to re-open the drinking cellulose cells, and stand the flowers in clean, fresh water.
To keep tulip stems straight rather than curling about as they grow in the vase, you can condition them in cones of newspaper or prick their stems just below the flower with a pin. I prefer the curly-wurly look myself, and so never take either of these tulip-controlling precautions.
Again, choose unusual varieties: they’re more expensive, but you can’t compete on price with the big growers for ordinary tulips. People will be coming to you for something unusual, and five baroque-looking parrot tulips go much further in a bouquet than twenty ordinary tulips.”
If you liked this you will love Georgie’s new book, Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers, out 19th November 2015! Be the first to get your copy at www.greenbooks.co.uk