Head Gardener Tips – Tulip Trials

April 25 2023 | Garden

Tulip Trials at Hever Castle & Gardens determine: black pepper & garlic powder mix, plus underplanting with violas, keeps the squirrels from your tulip bulbs!

RHS students engaged in Level 2 at Hever Castle & Gardens have been working with our head gardener Neil Miller and tutor Caroline Halfpenny over the last six months to uncover the best squirrel deterrents when growing tulips.

The students created tulip trial beds and tried various deterrents including black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, peppermint oil and companion planting.

Neil Miller says: “the tulips are ALL looking good in the trial beds, which is great news because it means there’s a variety of methods that gardeners can employ to keep squirrels from stealing their tulip bulbs!

“But perhaps the best trial bed holds the rather gorgeous egg-shaped Tulipa Blushing Apeldoorn which we treated to a garlic powder and black pepper mix when we planted them.”

Neil explains the unusual seasoning method: “As the students planted the bulbs, they sprinkled the powder on top of the bulbs, popped the compost on top, then sprinkled some more on the top of the compost – which kept the squirrels from picking at them.”

As part of their tulip trials, the students used the following methods:

An extra tip was discovered by accident, Neil explains: “We underplanted the area with violas and we believe that the absence of bare soil on show, courtesy of the viola ground cover, helped disguise the tulips whereabouts from the curious squirrels.”

Back in 2019, the Neil Miller and his gardening team did their own trials with similar results, you can learn more here.

To see the Tulips that are in bloom this week, please see our ‘Tulip Watch’ news item here.