Growing Tulips for Cut Flowers

For spring bedding there is no flower which has such a wide colour range and gives such a bright effect over so long a period as the tulip. They may be massed in beds without the groundwork of other plants, but undoubtedly the best results are obtained when planted with other flowers which come at the same time, such as aubrietas, myosotis, violas or wallflowers. This enhances the beauty of the tulip and produces a beautiful combination, besides ensuring that the soil around is not left bare.

October and November are the most suitable months for planting, and it is essential that the beds should be deeply dug and a dressing of well-rotted manure or compost material incorporated with the soil, while a little bone flour will be a valuable addition. The bulbs should be buried 4 in., even more in lighter soils, allowing 4-6 in. between each bulb so as to make a really good show.

Darwin tulips

If planted too early, the tops of the young shoots are liable to frost damage should they appear too soon, and the subsequent discoloration of the foliage persists through the season. Another important point is to plant all the bulbs at the same depth, otherwise all may not flower at exactly the same time. A trowel or blunt dibber should be used, thereby ensuring that the base of the bulbs actually rests on the soil.

Although most tulips can be used for cutting, the early single varieties are the most useful for the first display, and if given a position which is not bleak or exposed a brilliant show may often be obtained as early as March. They vary in height from 12 to 14 in., with one or two sorts a little taller.

In common with most tulips, some of the beautifully coloured ones come rather paler when forced, but this is not always a detraction. Selected with care, there are many varieties which cannot fail to please when grown outdoors or in the greenhouse and living-room. The double early tulips are also of great value, many of these, too, being admirable for cutting, while they look well in beds and borders, although, like all double flowers, they are liable to show the effects of bad-weather damage.

The Darwins are of most majestic appearance, and an asset to any garden. They have long, upright stems, are ideal for cutting and many can be grown in pots and bowls with great success. They vary in height from 24 to 36 in. and are now available in many shades of colour. From the Darwins have come the broken or rectified sorts, now grouped under the heading of Rembrandt tulips. This so-called ‘breaking’ or feathered marking of the petals is not usually inherited, and is believed to be caused by a virus infection such as causes variegation of the foliage of some plants.

The Rembrandts are distinct from the old English or Florist tulips, of which the petals are beautifully feathered and flamed. These again are divided into sections.

The May-flowering, or Cottage tulips, are of elegant appearance, while the range of self- and multi-coloured varieties is exceedingly wide. This section originates from a collection of varieties sought out in old gardens and brought together by a group of tulip-lovers towards the end of the last century. A glance at the catalogues of any leading bulb-grower will show how successful has been the work of breeding in this class.

The origin of the Parrot tulips is unknown and they cannot be reproduced by seed. The petals of varieties in this section are long and deeply laciniated, and along with the main colouring will be found markings and splashings of green. Among the best known is ‘Fantasy’, which is a sport from the well-known Darwin, ‘Clara Butt’. The original Parrot varieties had the inherent weakness of poor stems, which allowed the heads to bend and flop about, entirely spoiling the effectiveness of the flowers. However, there have now been evolved many excellent strong-stemmed varieties which are quite capable of holding the flowers erect.

The so-called Lily-flowered tulips are both interesting and attractive. Belonging to the late-flowering single or Cottage tulip class, they flower at the same time as these. They are so called, of course, on account of their shape, which more or less resembles that of a lily, the petals being gracefully ‘waisted’ and beautifully reflexed.

Excellent for growing in the border, their elegant, graceful shape makes them very desirable for cutting for house decoration, and although some may not be so easily obtainable as the more ordinary kinds, they are well worth extra trouble involved in purchasing them, and are now available in a wide colour range.

The blooms of Ideal tulips are graceful, of perfect form and good substance with exceptional lasting qualities. In addition, there are varieties producing pastel shades not to be found in the Darwins, and all have stems 27-30 in. long.

The Triumph tulips are another race of great value. They are the result of crossing the early singles with the Darwins and have the same type of strong stem as the latter, their robust habit and outstanding colours making them most attractive for garden planting. They fill the gap between the early-flowering singles and the Darwins.

There is certainly a great future for the Triumphs, for apart from their strong stems, the foliage is good, the flowers have fine lasting qualities, and they are effective when forced. The large blooms are borne on stems of about 22 in. and the colour range is wide.

Mendel tulips, bearing large, handsome flowers, are hybrids between the old ‘Due van Tol’ and Darwin tulips. They vary in height from 14 to 28 in., and many varieties can be forced into bloom as early as January or planted outdoors to flower at the end of April. They are also particularly suited for growing in the cold greenhouse or frame. Good varieties include ‘Brightling’, rich carmine-rose; ‘Orange Wonder’, orange shaded scarlet; ‘Pink Gem’, pink and white, a very early forcer; ‘Scarlet Admiral’, with broad square flowers of brilliant scarlet, and ‘Weber’, a very large, white-margined, rose-pink flower on strong stems, most excellent for both bedding and forcing.

There are also many attractive tulip species which are ideal for indoor decoration. These include T. clusiana, eichleri, fosteriana, greigii and its varieties, kaufmanniarza and its varieties; persica and praestans.

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