Diarmuid Gavin: my guide to growing great tulips
How do you like your tulips? They can be grown as part of a mixed border and will provide jewel-like color in the months of April and May. Helen Dillon famously grew them in galvanized bins in her Ranelagh garden in Dublin – these candy-colored displays were wheeled to prominent spots when they were in full bloom and removed backstage as soon as they came over.
r you could do a Claus Dalby on them! Claus is a Danish gardener who has a large following on Instagram and this time of year it’s worth checking his account to see what he’s up to.
He does sumptuous spring displays outside his home near Risskov in Denmark, stacking hundreds of terracotta pots together and using wooden platforms to create different levels of interest. It focuses on spring bulbs, especially daffodils and tulips, accompanied by forget-me-nots and violets. The colour-themed displays are a masterpiece of horticultural magic.
During the summer, the displays are supplemented with containers of annuals grown from seed in Claus’s greenhouses. His technique is to only plant one variety in each pot, so he can take out and replace the pots as soon as the plants bloom. The repetition of colors through the displays is another key principle of his brand of container gardening.
This is the time of year to be on the lookout for tulip varieties you like so you can order them in late summer – popular ones sell out fast so you need to get ahead of the competition. Keep them until November, the traditional tulip planting season, when they are less at risk of contracting fungal diseases.
The tulip question I get asked the most is whether they will bloom again next year, and this topic can lead to a lively debate among gardeners.
In the wild, species of tulips are perennial—these are often smaller varieties that grow on rocky ground. For example, Tulipa sylvestris has delicately scented yellow flowers and likes to grow wild in the grass. Hybrid tulips that have been bred in Holland for color and flower shape are best treated as annuals if you want to be sure they will show their best. However, if you’re not too picky (like me) then leave them dead and leave them in the ground or in containers to allow the foliage to die back naturally like you do with daffodils to allow the bulb to replenish.
Some will return and some will not. I get a few repeats in my garden – some early singles are popping up at the moment, like ‘Purple Prince’ and the lovely orange ‘Prinses Irene’.
Alternatively, if you grow them in pots and want to reuse the pot after flowering, you can carefully dig them up, let them dry in a nice and warm place and save them for replanting next November. Tulips can look messy when they die. So if you have them in borders it’s a good idea to plant them between some emerging perennials that will hide the messy foliage.
plant of the week
How wonderful to see a rampant vine blooming so early in the season. Clematis Armandii, one of the few evergreen species, are difficult to propagate, so they cost a little more at the garden center. One thing to be wary of is that they can take over – they grow like crazy. They have beautiful, glossy, long, pointed leaves and a fragrant white flower. They like a sunny and sheltered location and, like all clematis, are a forest plant – so roots in the shade, flowers in the sun. Once you’ve planted them, water them and place a flat rock over the roots. It is best to place them in a south-facing, sheltered position.
Reader Questions and Answers
I’ve got these weird dirt deposits all over my lawn – they’re in the shape of worms. Do you know what that is and how to get rid of it? — Julia
Small piles of clay on lawns are often the result of earthworm activity. As earthworms digest the soil, they also excrete it, and you can see that – they’re called wormworms. They can be a real nuisance on lawns as they are slimy and will ruin the look of a perfect patch of green. One method is to simply brush them away – a dry day is best for this. There is also a product called CastClear that can be applied to your lawn and will help keep earthworms below the surface by creating a barrier. It won’t kill them, which is important to note as earthworms do invaluable work for us.
Send your gardening questions to Diarmuid via his Instagram @diarmuidgavin using the hashtag #weekendgarden
Diarmuid Gavin’s guide to cottage garden plants for each year
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/life/house-home/diarmuid-gavin-my-guide-to-cultivating-terrific-tulips-41532907.html Diarmuid Gavin: my guide to growing great tulips