Planting Tulip Bulbs for a Cut Flower Garden

November 24, 2021

Reflections, Day 47

Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

This garden is a study in patience. We’ve been working on renovating this interesting place for six months. The lady told me that over the years there had been no planning in regards to the plantings, but rather the garden had served as a collection place for plants that just sort of showed up in her. My client wants this to be an interesting garden from which she can gather cut flowers from a nice, orderly selection.

The first stage was to remove all of the unwanted invasive plant material, then to rebuild the beds. Yesterday we began the repurposing of the garden by planting tulip bulbs. This took me way back into my gardening education.

About 45 years ago I was renovating a garden for Bernard Neal. To say that he was very, very particular would be an understatement. He wanted a bed of tulips that would bloom and then be replaced with summer flowers. That sounded easy. I dug holes the first year and stuck the tulip bulbs in the ground. The results were a “disaster” in his words. I guess it took me two or three tries before I got it right. I dug the bed out to about 5 inches deep, placed the bulbs carefully so that they would grow out in a symmetrical and meaningful pattern. I added fertilizer and fungicide to nourish and protect, and then I covered the bulbs carefully, not wanting to disturb their placement. The results were exquisite, and Mr. Neal said, “Excellent, John, and it only took you three years to figure it out.”

I didn’t have to learn that lesson again this year.

We planted 400 nice tulip bulbs of many different colors. Some are early bloomers and others are for later in the season. I’ll add to this series as the season progresses.

I started to do a “before” and an “after” picture, but when we got finished, the site looked just as it did when we started.

My next planting will be calla lilies which were my mother’s favorites.

—john schulz

Power to the patient.

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