Moving house is always an upheaval. I was looking forward to the move, to new beginnings, but leaving behind a garden stocked with all my favourite flowering plants, trees and shrubs was possibly the biggest tug on my heart as I left. As the months rolled pass in our new cottage, I found myself longing for the flowering cherry blossom, the fragrant heavy lilacs and the well-established hydrangeas that flanked the west edge of my old garden. It will take years to establish many of these beautiful garden favourites. The cottage garden was poorly neglected, apart from a huge overgrown boarder full of forget-me-knots, several lanky foxgloves and an ocean of self-seeded Nigella there wasn’t much to discover.
I wanted to create something relatively quickly that I could plant up and look forward to. At the bottom of the cottage garden is a huge gravelled area that was perfect to house two large raised boarders. We live on the oxford clay belt and so working the ground is a challenge. Plants and bulbs that prefer free draining soil struggle to do well whilst the roses thrive in the rich clay. So, raised beds that sat 2ft above the ground with a gravel bed was a perfect solution.
I asked the builders to come back and construct two large beds, after which my husband and I spent the weekend shifting 3 tonnes of topsoil from the drive. Oh boy, that was seriously backbreaking!
The fun bit was next, ordering the tulip bulbs, all 300 of them! Then on a cold, wet and windy November day I set about planting them. I was concerned about the squirrels digging them up to eat, so on the advice of Rosie, my local flower-farm grower, I shook the bulbs in a large bag of hot chilli powder! I was skeptical, but it seems to have worked! Although, I had to be mindful to keep my gloves away from my face and eyes! There were a couple of times when the wind picked up that I had to swiftly turn my face away to avoid being sprinkled with chilli. I jumbled all the bulbs together and planted them in rows.
Then I waited!
And, I waited some more!
Then by the end of January I spotted a single tip breaking through the soil! As February rolled on more and more tips broke through the soil! Strong and determined the tulips pierced their way up and into the light of the icy skies above.
Then, finally by the end of April this happened!
Tulip Mix: Apricot Impression / Purple Prince / Blue Diamond / Finola / Apricot Pride
The huge heads of Apricot Impression were the first to flower. The tallest, along with Apricot Pride (which to be honest were really a pale cream), these two tulip varieties where mammoth, their stems rose at least 50cm and their heads were easily the size of a large mug!
Above Tulip: Apricot Impression
A stunning bulb that opened in full sun to the size of a cupped hands, then twisted to a perfect close at dusk.
Below Tulip: Apricot Pride
Sustainable working and bulb care
Working seasonally to create intimate arrangements that don't take too much from my garden is my preferred way to work. These bulbs were an investment that I will enjoy them for several years to come.
I'm mindful to create an arrangement that pays homage to what remains. To what still grows. I'm careful to only pick the bloom. The leaves remain in the ground and after flowering I'll give them a good feed before they turn yellow and start to die back. All the goodness in the leaves will 'feed' the bulb ready for next year. For those unpicked stems, once the flower starts to drop it's petals I dead-head the remaining stamen. I wait for all the leaf growth to yellow and die-back before cutting away.
Tulip Varieties include James Last / Finola / Apricot Beauty / Apricot Impression / Blue Diamond / Angelique / Rococo.
Tulip: Purple Parrot
Tulip: Purple Prince
Tulip: Copper Image
Tulip: Blue Diamond
Tulip: James Last. Open to its fullest it's a magnificent shape.
If your interested in learning more about the tulip varieties I grow then take a look at April's Creative Publication for further inspiration. There is also a tulip wreath to create in May's Issue.