Removing your Tulips: Why & How
You have to forget about them a little bit before they are at their best. I’m quite good at that, my plant is next to my computer, and I am very confident in telling you that it is by far the ugliest plant I own. A mess of branches, completely messy and unorganized, and whenever I’m just at my computer, part of it sometimes just falls in front of my screen. So I’m not really inclined to think of this particular plant first whenever I’m watering everything, you can probably understand that.
Now, onto the next subject: the plants in your garden. The best thing to do for the long-term future of your garden is to remove them from the soil. Tulips especially do not have the resilience of Daffodils, Crocuses, or the Euphorbia tirucalli—unfortunately. When you plant a Crocus, a Daffodil, or one of the many smaller varieties we offer in our web shop, you can often see them return to your garden for many years after that first time. The Tulip however is an exotic plant in this area of the world, and therefore, Tulips are a bit more picky: they are too cold, too wet, there’s a fungus they don’t like, or something else tries to eat them, lots of things can happen. It’s not the biggest problem in the world that some things in nature just aren’t meant to last, but the problem with Tulips is that they also ruin the chances of the varieties you plant in this spot in the following year. So, if you are planning to plant tulips in your garden for the next couple of years, be sure to take the tulips out after they have finished blooming. You can pull them out by the stem and completely take the bulb out pretty easily, too.
Poldertuin Anna Paulowna in late April
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with the director of the Keukenhof. They are taking the Tulips out next week, he told me. They don’t quite manage to do all of them in one week, but they do make fast progress after the gardens have closed for the spring. I also asked him what else they do in order to keep the soil healthy for next year, but there is not much that is different from what regular people do, too. That is because if you remove the Tulip flower bulbs after blooming, you are already doing the most important thing to ensure the health of your soil. The Keukenhof does not often have to drastically intervene. When they do, they dig out the soil of a large piece of the grounds and then they put in new, fresh soil, but the last time that had to happen is some time ago already. That is just because if you plant Tulips somewhere for 75 years, like they do at Keukenhof, you just have to make a little mistake somewhere… but the most important thing to ensure the health of your flowers and garden is to remove the Tulips from the garden as quickly as possible after they are completely done flowering.
Poldertuin Anna Paulowna halfway through May
When I was writing this, I figured I could have another look at the Poldertuin in Anna Paulowna. They should already be busy digging up their tulips as well. When I arrived, they were just having lunch, but I could see that they were already readying the garden for next year. I spoke to the volunteers who work in the gardens every year, mostly retired flower bulb growers who are enjoying their days doing things like this, and they showed me what they were doing now. After that, I decided to go to Den Oever for some fresh fish, and to write the rest of my newsletter there.
Or I’ll write the text to accompany the Tulip ‘Karate’, that one still needs a description. It has to be one of the best new additions to our web site this year, and still it does not have a description. They don’t have a photo either, so logically none of them have been sold yet. My fault. The photos are online by now, but the text still has to be uploaded, and I’m trying to get that done now over lunch. I at least have to try to get you enthusiastic about this beautiful Tulip, because she deserves all the attention she can get.
But we were also still talking about digging Tulips. I do want to be very clear about that: it’s just way better for your garden if you take them out after they have bloomed. This will prevent any failed attempts at Tulips in the next years. If you leave them in, disease can take over the soil in your garden, and that is just very unfortunate for all the hard work you have put into your garden until now.
“She is almost 7 months now,” “I’ve just returned to work for the first day after my burn-out,” “She had never expected this, it was supposed to be a few weeks still, but it’s a girl: Paulina.” Clearly I had taken place close to two elderly women, of whom one has just become a grandmother. I heard someone ask if there were still mussels available. They were gone already, obviously a popular choice in this restaurant. They would be restocked in the morning. I kept hearing the happy conversations of the people around me who were talking about all kinds of things, and I always tend to listen to stuff like that, so I had a lot of entertainment that did not consist of writing about my new tulips this afternoon.
So, back to the Tulips. There are probably many seasoned gardeners among you who already know that they are supposed to remove the tulips after they are done, and they probably gave up on this newsletter somewhere around the third line, but I just can’t tell you enough about this, as I am so afraid that you think that it will be fine either way and then your garden won’t do as well next year. There are also always people who know how to care for their tulips. They take care of them until late June, dig them up after that, and re-plant them in the autumn in a different place in the garden. There are also always some people who let me know that they haven’t touched their tulips in years and yet they always return every spring, without them doing anything about it. There are always exceptions to any rule, is what I’m trying to say. I have one tulip in my garden that has been there for 25 years, there are like 10 of them, but I’ve planted hundreds over the years. All in all, there are not that many that survive. So, the best rule of thumb will always be to remove Tulips fully, stem and bulb, when they have finished flowering.
Okay, so now that that’s been made clear, what about the Tulips that specifically have the selling point that they do well for multiple years? Well, that’s a difficult question. We could simply not use that as a selling point at all—that would certainly be easiest. It’s still not always the case that these Tulips are as pretty after three years as they were the first time around. They will always be less reliable than Daffodils, Muscari, or Hyacinths. The thing about these specific Tulips is that it is doable to see them for several years, and that works especially well when you plant them loosely sprinkled throughout your border or garden, where they are not surrounded by many other Tulips. If you plant those singular flowers throughout your garden, you can see those einzelgangers come back for years on end, at least when they are one of the Tulip varieties that is known to be able to do this. If you were to plant them all grouped together, the chances still are that they won’t be coming back. Disease just gets to Tulips and they get a little less pretty every year.
So yes, we sell Tulips of which we say that they are known to come back, but what we mean by that is that they come back better than the average Tulip does, and average is not at all. We still want to say that it is possible because I know many of our customers are accomplished gardeners, and they are capable of providing an environment in which these Tulips thrive. I want them to know that they could manage to get these Tulips to come back, and if they then do it, they can be very proud of that accomplishment.