Rss Feed
Tweeter button
Facebook button

Your garden in March & April: Sean Murray’s tips for North East gardeners

Tulips have captured our hearts, minds and pockets for centuries. And given the right growing conditions they can provide you with a dazzling spring display.

In 1574 Sultan Selim 2nd is reported to have ordered 50,000 bulbs from a Syrian Sharif. Later in 1630 the Dutch developed their own tulip mania followed by the Turkish growers and a century later the rest of Europe.

In the 17th century a single bulb of Semper Augustus changed hands for the price of the most expensive house in Amsterdam with its own mooring, garden and coach house. Wind forward to 1930s Britain and collectors were still paying the equivalent of £1,760 in today’s money for a rare single bulb.

The charm of tulips appears to lie in its enormous range – from the simplest to the most flamboyant blooms. The most bizarre forms have striped, marbled and contorted petals, in fact created by a virus, spread by aphids, that causes the bulb to break from its normal form and colour.

My favourite is the parrot form called Rococo with its puckered petals in red and green. It makes me think of far away exotic places or a flock of Macaws in an Amazonian rainforest. Rococo is also a great long-lasting cut flower, as are the commercially grown French tulips with their long stems and big flowers. Don’t fuss too much when arranging them they look best in a simple vase and as they continue to grow in water allow them to flop and do their own thing.

Tulips, like this parrot variety, can be left to droop, says Sean Murray
Tulips, like this parrot variety, can be left to droop, says Sean Murray

I was more than a little starstruck when I looked up from my garden at Chelsea Flower Show last year to find Anna Pavord, the acknowledged tulip expert. I was looking forward to a conversation – only to be quickly deflated as she graciously explained it was not her but her daughter who wanted to meet me.

So, no tips from Anna! However, I can tell you that tulips need good drainage and a summer baking once they have flowered.

It’s best not to expect them to flower every year as they often become exhausted by the sheer effort involved in flowering and can take a season off to recover. If you have heavy clay soil, try adding grit to the planting hole and plant them less deep than you would on sandy, well-drained soil.

The best way to grow them if you have heavy soil is in pots where you can control their growing conditions. Top the pots with gravel to stop the birds dragging everything out as they look for food or nesting materials at this time of year.

As the flowers fade, sprinkle annual flower seed such as Californian poppy onto the gravel for a succession of colour.

Tulip bulbs can be planted from late autumn right through into November. My wife bought me some bulbs in the sale last November for a few pence. I was chuffed at her thrifty action, even more so as they were my favourite orange Prinses Irene and Ballerina, both slightly scented.

I was not so chuffed that she had to buy a new £45 planter to help them look even more gorgeous this spring. I await their costly performance at our front door. With the tulip, money appears to be the final word.

Sean Murray runs a garden design company based in Ashington, Northumberland, www. gardennarratives.co.uk

Article source: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/property-news/your-garden-march--april-11109869