As the Tulips at Hever Castle reach their peak blooming period (expected to be 19 – 25 April), Head Gardener Neil Miller shares his tips for good tulip husbandry.
Hever Castle & Gardens is a magical place to be in the springtime. Tulips of every hue dance and delight us in April, rewarding us for our hard work the previous autumn.
The secret to good tulip husbandry is all in the selection and preparation.
We sourced a number of the tulip bulbs from bulb master, and holder of 25 coveted Chelsea gold medals, Johnny Walkers, while the rest came direct from the Netherlands, with the express intention of extending the flowering season from early April through to mid May.
It all starts in late summer when we sit down to select our colour palette and talk about designs. Each tulip will typically flower for a short season, so it’s a great idea to plant a mixture of varieties that flower at different times from March through to May to prolong your display.
If you are limited for space at home, you can grow tulips in pots and troughs – choose varieties that provide talking points such as ‘Ice Cream’ or the parrot varieties such as ‘Black Parrot’ with its sultry deep purple colour and frilled margins.
Once we have selected the colours and know where we are going to plant the tulips, another tip for good tulip husbandry is pest control and keeping the squirrels off our tulips.
Check out our pest control tips tomorrow and then plant as follows:
• Plant tulip bulbs in October/November to around two or three times the depth of the bulb.
• Tulips are frost hardy, love full sun, flourish in fertile soil, but dislike wet conditions.
• Ensure you plant your bulbs away from strong winds.
• Avoid using strong smelling fertilisers – these just alert the squirrels and animals to the whereabouts of the bulbs.
• If you are planting in pots and troughs, you can cover these with chicken wire to protect them from the squirrels during the winter months.
• Be creative with your site selection: tulips look stunning in pots, as borders, or planted amongst the grass.
My favourite varieties:
‘Black Parrot’ – one of the most glamorous tulips you can grow: sultry deep purple flowers with frilled margins.
‘Flaming Coquette’ – rare colour way buttermilk petals with yellow flames that catch the sunlight.
‘Hot Pants’ – commonly known as a ‘chameleon’, this purple and white tulip changes colour as it matures, deepening and growing richer over time.
‘Ice Cream’ – it’s often said that this tulip looks ‘good enough to eat’. With its peony-like flowers, this bulb was expensive when first introduced but the prices have come down since.
‘Monte Flame’ – a double tulip with a ruffled appearance, fantastic for cut-flower displays. With its red and yellow streaked petals, this tulip has a lovely fresh fragrance.
‘Palestrina’ – a fantastic tulip with large flower heads, the ‘Palestrina’ is a lovely salmon rose colour.
‘Spring Green’ – RHS award-winning tulip; each petal is decorated with a delicate green stripe. A cottage garden favourite for its classic green and white colouring. Works well on its own in pots as well as in mixed planting.
‘Green Jay’ – show-stopping Viridiflora Tulip which produces three to four frilled flowers of cool lemon yellow. Originally found in Turkestan.
‘Evergreen’ – often flowers for longer periods than other tulips. ‘Evergreen’ is a pure green tulip – magnificent!