By David P. Davis
Many of our spring bulbs and flowering shrubs are already reaching their peak bloom or have even passed their peak at the West Virginia Botanic Garden, 1061 Tyrone Rd.
And, in many cases, blooms that are in the tender phases of breaking dormancy can be very susceptible to below-freezing temperatures.
One flower that tends to take a light freeze well is the tulip, family Liliaceae. The genus Tulipa includes about 75 species of spring-blooming perennial bulbs that have large showy blooms. Tulips have been cultivated since the Ottoman Empire and were introduced into Europe in the 16th century.
Tulips so captured the attention of Europeans and the Dutch, in particular, that during the 17th century, they established a futures trading market for tulip bulbs during a period called “tulip mania.”
Today, the Netherlands is the leading producer of tulip bulbs for gardeners worldwide.
At the WVBG, we plant our Tyrone entrance bed with a selection of tulips every year. Last fall, we planted 300 tulips of the varieties “Purple Lady” and “Flair.” “Purple Lady” is a mid-spring bloomer of medium height that is deep purple. “Flair” bloomed a bit earlier and has variegated red-and-yellow petals; each petal has a slightly different blend of colors.
When planting our beds, we try our best to plant in a pattern. To accomplish this, we dig out the top 4-6 inches of soil, arrange our bulbs, then layer the soil back on top. This process allows us to track placement and maintain better spacing.
Our work can quickly be undone by another native population. Deer like to nibble on tulips, so we spray a 50/50 milk-water solution on our tulips regularly from emergence through flowering to deter them.
All gardeners and farmers know the dread a late spring freeze can bring. I could list the lost blooms already incurred at the garden, but that brings no joy.
When it comes to gardening, you have to focus on what survives and thrives and learn as you go. This week’s weather may cost us some blooms, but there will be new ones to follow. It’s just another reminder to get out and enjoy nature each day.
Come see ours now, as they might not last into next week!
David P. Davis, Ph.D., gardener at the WVBG. For visiting information, maps, and more, visit WVBG.org.