Paint your garden with tulips

There’s magic in tulips. Their sleek brown bulbs hide a rainbow of beautiful flowers which are yours for the planting. Whether it’s bright reds and yellows that you love, or pretty pastel pinks and purples, you can design a palette of their gorgeous colors by planting the bulbs this fall.

Tulips require three or four months of cold during the winter before they will bloom. In Willits, this is no problem: just plant the bulbs in the fall and they will be ready to bloom next April and May.

Tulips are classified into groups depending on their flower form and blooming time. Plant a succession of tulip varieties and colors for six weeks of spring flowers.

Early tulips include both single and double flowers on strong stems. Best known of these is ‘Apricot Beauty’, in soft apricot pink.

There are many low growing tulips that are ideal for rock gardens and containers. They include the Kaufmanniana, Greigii and other species tulips. They naturalize very well and return year after year if undisturbed.

Next to bloom are the Emperor Tulips, which have a characteristic form and are best known for their classic red and yellow varieties.

Triumph tulips come in every possible color from jewel tones to pastels. They have the traditional tulip shape and strong stems. ‘Passionale’ has large, lilac-purple flowers with deep purple flames on the outside. ‘Shirley’ is a delicate white with misty lavender blush and a thin violet edge along each petal. It makes a good companion for pink or purple tulips.

Darwin Hybrid Tulips are known for their huge, brilliantly colored flowers. The blossoms are an almost perfect pyramid shape when closed, but they can measure as much as 6” in diameter when fully open.

Blooming in midseason with their long stems they are one of the best tulips for cut flowers. They are also lovely in beds and borders where they can be sheltered from strong winds.

Unlike most types of tulip, which only bloom well for the first couple of years, Darwin Hybrid Tulips will come back year after year and are sometimes referred to as “perennial” tulips. Bright-colored ‘Spring Song’, has red flowers shaded with salmon, and ‘Golden Apeldoorn’ is well-known for its rich, golden yellow flowers.

Parrot tulips have curled, feathered and twisted petals and brightly colored flowers. ‘Texas Flame’ is very dramatic with buttercup yellow petals flamed with red.

End the season with the ever-popular, Double Late tulip, ‘Angelique’. With its peony-like, soft rose-pink flowers it brings an elegant close to the tulip season.

The biggest bulbs naturally produce the largest flowers. It is worth investing a little more to buy top size bulbs. These large, vigorous bulbs will give larger blooms three or four years in a row.

Tulips need sunshine when they are in bloom. If they are in a shady area, they will lean toward the light on elongated stems. It’s fine to plant bulbs under deciduous trees if the trees won’t leaf out until after the blooming season ends.

Plant tulip bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep, putting some bone meal at the bottom of the hole. As soon as the flowers have faded, cut them off so that the bulb will store up energy for next season rather that putting that energy into producing a seed pod. Leave the foliage until it dies down naturally.

Tulips can easily be grown in containers. Use potting soil and add bone meal or bulb fertilizer. Set the bulbs close together and barely cover them with soil. Set the containers in a cool place out of direct sunshine. Sun will warm the soil and make the bulbs bloom before they have developed an adequate root system. Keep them in a cool place for 3 or 4 months then, when the shoots appear, move pots to a place with light shade. When buds appear, move pots where you can enjoy their beautiful blooms to the fullest.

Fall is the time to plant tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs for a splendid show next spring.

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