Autumn is the time for planting spring flowering bulbs such as Daffodils, Camassia, Alliums and Tulips to name but a few. As Tulips are happy to go into the ground right up to the end of November, there’s still plenty of time to put some in. Tulips are simple to plant and look after and there are so many cultivars to choose from, you can find one to suit most places and conditions. You need enough soil to enable you to plant at a depth of about two and half times the size of the bulb, in a sheltered spot with sun and good drainage. Bulbs can stand quite cold conditions, but ones that sit in cold water will rot. Tulips are also great in big pots or containers for the patio, but cover the top with chicken wire if you get visiting squirrels. Wear gloves when handling bulbs as they can irritate the skin (and if you have dogs, bulbs will make your dog ill if they eat them!). You can plant tulips individually, but they often have more impact planted in drifts or clusters of 5 or 6 bulbs. Add some farm yard manure or pelleted chicken manure or fertiliser such as Grow More to the soil before planting to give them a good start.
There are so many tulips available it’s hard to pick out the best, so think about colour schemes, height and form when choosing. There are ones with frilly edges such as ‘Black Parrot’ and ‘White Swan’. Double petaled ones like the pretty peachy pink Angelique, even scented ones such as the orange tulip ‘Ballerina’. Pure white ‘Purissima’ can look striking against dark tulips such as ‘Cafe Noir’ creating an unusual chic black and white scheme. Classic dark purple tulips such as ‘Queen of the Night’ or ‘Negrita’ make a wonderful companion to pink or pale tulips such as ‘Shirley’, ‘Pink China’ or ‘Ballade’ or even the scarlet ‘Coleur Cardinal’ and orange ‘Princes Irene’, shot through with purple streaks and particularly robust in exposed positions.
You’ll find a selection of Tulips in most Garden Centres at this time of year, including our local one at Farnborough. Otherwise go on the internet and look at Crocus, Van Meuwen, J Parkers or for the rare and unusual try bulb specialists Jacques Amand.
Once they’ve flowered, dead head tulips so they don’t waste energy on seed and while the leaves are still green, feed with a balanced fertiliser (ie one with equal amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) such as Vitax 4. Allow the leaves to die back naturally before removing them.