Published 12/03/2010 | 05:00
Tulips are one of my favourite spring flowers but the bulbs, which I planted two years ago, did not return last year. Are there any tips for planting tulips?
As one of the most popular flowers both for garden use and as cut flowers, tulips are among the first pronouncements of colour of the year.
So coveted were they in 17th century Holland that tulipmania ensued, brought about by speculative trading of the tulip bulb.
The world has never lost its love affair with the tulip and many cultivars ensure that tulips will flower from early spring right up to the brink of summer.
Plant a succession of varieties of tulips, such as Tulipa kaufmanniana 'The First', one of the earliest to flower, followed by the scented late flowering T. 'Ballerina' or stunning deep purple T. 'Queen of the Night', and you will have colour throughout spring.
A tip to hiding the somewhat untidy foliage of the tulip is to site it amongst lupines, forget-me-nots, aquilegias or wallflowers as their foliage emerges simultaneous to the flowering tulips.
Then when the flowers of the tulips die back the companion planting starts to flower.
Most tulip cultivars do not fare well in our damp climate as they like dry summers. If not lifted in wet climates such as ours they can become prone to tulip fire, Botrytis tulipae, a fungal disease.
Some such as T. fosteriana often return the successive year with slightly smaller flowers but with the advantage of being more elegant and slender.
Plant tulip bulbs deep in late autumn but not in the vicinity of lilies, as some cultivars are host to 'tulip breaking virus' to which lilies are susceptible.