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There are a great many wonderful plants and flowers on our earth and my favorite of them all is the Tulip, it may not be the most exotic or exciting of plants but I think it is one of true, simple beauty, one that is a dream to grow and a marvel to display. I've loved Tulips since I was a girl and my mother grew them in our garden, at first they seemed so plain, single flowers, bright in colour but unfussy but as the years passed and different varieties were introduced to our garden I realized how diverse and wonderful they really were, my love for the flowers finally reached it's peak when I selected white Tulips for my wedding bouquet and was presented with the most stunning arrangement of flowers I had ever seen. My love for the flowers has remained constant and it is with great excitement that I await each spring and the display I will see in my gardens and those of the gardens surrounding me.
Despite their association with Holland, the Tulip, both the flower and its name, originated in the Persian Empire and is actually not a Dutch flower as is commonly believed, it is only the third biggest selling flower in Holland however the Keukenhof gardens in Holland features a stunning display of 7 million flowers and is a popular attraction for Tulip lovers worldwide ( http://us.holland.com/e/7636/Dutch%20Delight%20The%20Keukenhof%20Gardens.ph p)
Called the "Laleh" in Persian it is a flower indigenous to Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey as well as other parts of central Asia, they were brought to Europe in the 16th century. Originating from mountainous areas with temperate climates Tulips need a period of cool dormancy, they fare best in climates with cool springs and early summers, but are also regularly grown as spring bloomers, appearing annually. In the middle ages a period dubbed "Tulip Mania" saw the bulbs changing hands for as much as an incredible £4 million
a bulb and it was during Victorian times that the red Tulip became known as a flower that would declare your love and became a perfect Valentines flower as a result of this.
The bulbs are typically planted in autumn, normally from 4 to 8 inches deep, in well drained soil, it is usually recommended that they are planted up to a depth of 3 times their size and usually about 5 to 6 inches apart, of course try not to plant them too deep, my father did this one year to be presented the following spring by tubs full of Tulip heads and no stalks or leaves, we took great delight in teasing him over his "dwarf Tulips" The plants are well suited for pots and containers as well as in garden borders but are particularly vulnerable to attacks by slugs and snails and so it is best to apply some form of slug repellent after planting, repeating the process regularly until the flowers have reached a decent height. A tulip bulb will produce a single stem flower, a vibrant green stem flanked by 2 long leaves topped by a simple but brightly coloured flower made up of a handful of petals. Tulips come in every colour except true black and blue, there are many varieties some with frilled edges, some whose petals curve outwardly, some are single colour flowers while others have several colours, combinations of reds and yellows or pinks and whites creating stunning contrast on the petals. When buying Tulip bulbs it is important to buy bulbs that have no grey or brown marks on them, this is a possible sign of disease which will not only effect the bulb but could spread to any other Tulips you plant. The bulbs are available in autumn and winter ready for planting and will vary in price depending on the style and where you purchase them, I like to buy my bulbs from the garden centre, they allow you to fill a bag with many different bulbs which allows me to pick and choose the colours I want, ensuring I have a bright and vivid display in my garden.
The plants need to be protected from harsh frosts and strong winds and are better planted near a wall or hedge to provide protection to the delicate flowers from such harsh weather. You can leave the bulbs dormant in their tub or border over the winter, however you can lift them every season, digging them up and storing them in the garage or similar location, or cover them with sacking or straw for added protection over the cold winter months, I must admit to leaving my bulbs in the earth over the winter but they are well protected being in a border along the edge of the house with a fence and hedge running up the side protecting them from winds and frost, this has resulted in my Tulips, Daffodils and Crocus flowering earlier this year which does bring a lovely spray of colour and life during these greyer days but leaves me wondering if they'll make it through the spring.
Tulips do need to be watered during their flowering period, however it is important to ensure that they are not over watered leaving the roots water logged, too much "feeding" can result in leggy plants with less than impressive flowers, however lack of watering can leave the flower heads shriveled and cause the plants to die off quickly. Due to the time of year many Tulips grow it is possible to leave them to rely on rain water for much of their needs although in warmer, dry springs they'll need a little human assistance. When the flower has past it's best you should remove the flower heads and let the rest of the plant die back, this allows all the nutrients to return to the bulb ready for flowering the following season, you will be able to tell when the stalk is ready to be removed as a simple tug on it will separate it from it's bulb, leaving the bulb in the earth and the stalk in your hand, any resistance means the plant is not ready to be removed. It is important not to compost the dead foliage and petals as tulips can leave behind a disease called Tulip Fire, a form of fungal disease which can rot bulbs and flowers.
Tulips are an ideal flower to pick from your garden and display in a vase, they survive for about a week in water and will curve towards the light, so are perfectly placed in a sunny spot on a window ledge. If you are buying bouquets of Tulips it's advised to buy them when the flowers are in bud with a little colour showing rather than buying bouquets with open flowers, this will simply ensure that you get a better vase life out of them. Bouquets of Tulips are relatively cheap and can be picked up for a few pounds from florists, supermarkets, garage forecourts……….if I'm not displaying my own I like to get them from my local green grocer who always has a lovely range of different colours available for £1.95 a bunch.
The Tulip is the perfect plant for new and experienced gardeners alike, they will survive and flower every year with the smallest level of care and will produce stunning displays each time they grow. They are beautiful flowers to display in the home with gentle fragrances but amazing impact of colour, there is nothing as nice as walking into a room on a sunny spring morning to be greeted by a vase of Tulips, as they reach to soak up the heat of the sun you get the feeling they are a happy flower and they will lift your mood even on a grey windy day. Whatever occasion passes I always hope my other half will mark it with a bunch of Tulips, I have no desire for fancy Orchids or expensive Roses, I'm happy and content with a simple bunch of Tulips and delighted that he knows me well enough to buy me my favourite flower, usually in my favourite colour, now there's romance for you. My love affair with Tulips is sure to continue as the years pass and I hope my children have the same appreciation for these delightful plants as I do.