Make the most of tulips by planting now

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I’m rained off – again. This time it was while planting what I hope to be a magnificent display of tulips at the front of our cottage next spring.

November is thought of as the best month for planting tulips (that’s when it isn’t pouring down).

Planted earlier, there is a small chance of frost damage if the bulbs sprout too soon, although if planted deep enough, this isn’t usually a problem.

Someone remarked to me recently that they find tulips confusing, as there seem to be so many categories.

In fact, there are only two basic ones.

In the first group there are all the large flowered hybrid types such as Single Early, Double Early, Triumph, Darwin Hybrids, Lily Flowered, Fringed, Parrot, Single Late, Viridiflora, Rembrandt and Double Late. They generally have large, showy flowers, starting with the Single Earlies in early to mid-April, and ending with the Double Lates in mid to late May, and are the tulips we used to see in fields en masse all round the South Holland area.

These ‘garden tulips’ are best mass-planted in groups of single or colour co-ordinated varieties; or close-planted in containers.

To keep the bulbs from year to year, they are best lifted, cleaned and stored after the leaves have died, for replanting in the autumn.

I have also seen them naturalised in short grass – on some of the verges in Milton Keynes, actually - giving an unusual but pleasing effect.

They also blend well with spring bedding plants such as wallflowers and forget-me-nots.

The other category is those tulips that can be found in the wild, like Tulipa polycroma, and cultivars derived from wild forms, where characteristics of the original species can still be recognised, such ‘Red Riding Hood’. They are often referred to as ‘botanical tulips’ and vary in height, from a few centimetres to 50cm or more, depending on variety.

These are the tulips for beds and borders, and are ideal for rock and sink gardens.

Most gardens have room for tulips of one sort or another – maybe the rain will stop long enough for us to get on with putting them in!