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Plant tulips now in England, not Amsterdam

If you want early spring colour in your garden, then we’d have to say the plants of choice for the gardeners at Ladybrook Nursery are tulips. They remain as popular as ever, and that’s because they are probably the most versatile spring-flowering plant. Tulips are happy in borders and pots, and some varieties can even be naturalised in lawns and under trees.

Tulips are bulbs just like daffodils and crocus; however they are better planted later in the year because of their vulnerability to fungal diseases like ‘tulip fire’ which thrives in the warm and damp conditions we often get in September and October. The beauty of the tulip is that because of its short growth season, you can plant bulbs right up until Christmas and still expect to get a vibrant flowering display next spring.

Want to know about tulips? Then read on:

Planting new tulip bulbs

  • Prepare the ground by weeding and clearing stones. Fork in multi-purpose compost or well- rotted manure.
  • Work out where you want to plant your bulbs and lay them out on the ground before planting. Plant taller bulbs like ‘Black Parrot’ towards the rear of the bed.
  • Plant bulbs at the depth suggested by suppliers.
  • As conditions can sometimes be dry in autumn and winter – though certainly not at the moment – once the bulbs are planed make sure you keep them well-watered.
  • Cover the newly-dug bed with twigs and straw to discourage cats from using it as a ‘facility.’

Stored bulbs

  • If you lifted and stored bulbs which flowered earlier in the year, you should be getting them back in the ground now.
  • Before planting stored bulbs, check them out. Discard any that are soft, diseased or have been attacked by insects in storage.
  • Most bedding tulips –not named varieties – need replacing each year. So if you persist with older bulbs subsequent flowering may not be that good. In fact some may not even flower at all.
  • Most tulip bulbs will do better when they are lifted and stored. However, they may not flower as well as fresh ones. So it’s a good idea to plant these bulbs towards the back of the border or in areas that aren’t immediately visible.

Tulip fire – what to watch out for?

  • Tulip fire is caused by the fungal disease Botrytis tulipae. Symptoms of tulip fire include distorted or twisted leaves that may fail to develop, or display brown spots of dead tissue. In the most severe cases these brown markings will spread.
  • Dead areas of the plant may become covered in a grey fuzzy mould. Flowers may become mottled and rot rapidly in wet weather. Sometimes you can also see small black seed-like growths on dead tissue and on the outer scales of bulbs.
  • There is no chemical control for tulip fire, so removal and burning is the only available option for the gardener. It’s important not to compost infected plants, and it’s equally important not to replant tulip bulbs in the same area for 3 years after the infection.

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