Spring is surging; time to evaluate the tulips

Front Garden tulips

Spring seems to be in a rush to get everything underway post haste! The early, mid and some of the late tulips are all blooming at once! Suddenly overnight earlier this week, the white lilac, the pear tree, the gooseberries, several primroses and black currants are all in flower. Before it’s over, I’m trying to take more time to actually enjoy and savor each flower and to do an evaluation of this year’s tulip plantings. Each year, the favorites are ordered (Foxy Foxtrot, Temple’s Favorite, Cretaceous, Dordogne) but usually a new variety catches the eye, or as in the case last fall, a favorite is not available so a replacement candidate must be found.

In looking at this year’s Front Garden tulips, I’m not as happy as in some years. Although shorter tulips, mid-sized tulips, and tall tulips were planted, they all seem to be the same height, although they should range from 12-30″. The photo above was taken this morning, just after the FROST melted. Yes, we had 29 degrees F this morn, which ought to slow things down a bit.

The same view a while later, after the flowers had opened a bit more.

This year I decided to plant in “ribbons” rather than clumps of varieties. I think I’m going back to clumps. A new variety this year is “Prince Armin,” the orange and yellow nicely cupped tulip rather in the center. I like it, and will probably order it again. The “Orange Marmalade” tulip was disappointing, as the colors faded quickly to almost beige. You can see them along the right edge near the hedge. The “Cretaceous” peony-flowered tulip seems to be more yellow and reds this year, rather than the abundant oranges last year. The only variety left to open is at the very back along the wall, the late and taller “Dordogne.” I feel I’m missing the darker orange of King’s Orange from last year, but it wasn’t available. And this stage needs something other than just tulips. There are a few dark blue muscari in the front, but it needs some height until the shrubs grow taller. Maybe some tall frittalaria next year?

Also, the bare soil showing bothers me. Normally, a tidy layer of mulch would already be down. But, “Lauren Grape” poppy seeds were sprinkled weeks ago, and have yet to germinate so I don’t want to put mulch down until they emerge. A little more rain and warmer temps might make that happen. Patience…

The Deck Garden early this morn.

I’m happier with the Deck Garden look, which is planted in clumps rather than ribbons. I planted 75 “Tang Dynasty” tulips in 2019, and really liked the mixture of white, bright yellow, and orange tulips but wanted more. So last October, 100 “Tang Dynasty” were planted again. Yesterday, I counted 168 “Tang Dynasty” which means that not only did the 100 newly planted bulbs bloom, but 68 returned from the year before! What a bonus! I generally don’t count on tulips returning well (except those two tulips in the very foreground near the birdbath, which were here when we moved in nearly 30 years ago!) I also like that there are still the “Geranium” narcissus clumps blooming. Between those and the hyacinths, the walk along the sidewalk is very fragrant. I think this planting combination will do again next year.

The Front Island this morning as the sun rises.

The Front Island has had continual bloom since early March, and overall it satisfies me. I don’t plant many tulips or crocus there, because the two black walnut trees are in constant use by squirrels. There are 15 varieties of daffodils, a forsythia, and violets in bloom right now. Here are two of my favorites:

Daffodil “Sailorman”
Daffodil “Blushing Lady”

However, there are some tulips there this year, a small clump of “Bright Gem” that should be opening soon that were planted and bloomed a year ago, and another mystery clump, likely moved from the Front Garden and replanted by the squirrels! We’ll just have to wait to see what they selected. I’m just surprised they didn’t just eat the bulbs! Tall white alliums were added here last fall to help cover the gap after the daffodils are finished, so I’m eager to see them bloom later on.

The potager’s exterior border (south half)

Lastly, the potager’s exterior border, which didn’t get as many tulips as in prior years, partly because I ran out of tulip bulbs, and partly because the irises are taking up more and more space. Tulips bloom a bit later here. The Front Garden and Deck Garden have the benefit of heat gathered from the brick house. The potager is out in the open and unsheltered, which also means it is visited more often by deer and rabbits. So far (knock wood) this year’s tulips have not been nibbled, but I won’t hold my breath. There were 13 deer in the back area a few days ago, until I ran out and clapped my hands to scare them away. Most of the tulips are the late “Dordogne” back along the fence, which haven’t opened yet. But, the border looks full and lush, so I probably won’t make any changes other than to divide some of the daffodils that bloomed earlier and are getting too thick, and maybe move some irises later on.

So, that’s the tulip evaluation for this year. I’ll be re-reading this before I place the bulb order in late summer, and giving it more thought as I look through the catalogs. Have you evaluated your bulbs yet? I encourage you to do so, if only to take a really close look at the beauty of these amazing spring flowers, and to marvel at the wonders of each intricate bloom! Happy Spring!


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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10 Responses to Spring is surging; time to evaluate the tulips

  1. What a feast for the eyes! And what a lot of dedication! 😊
    The spring here has also brought us a lot of colours that we don’t usually see at the same time. It has also brought us some heavy frost that has created a lot of damage for the fruit trees after the unusual high temperatures of the last few weeks….😟


    • carolee says:

      Sad about the fruit trees, and the same thing is about to happen here. Freeze warning for the next three nights, and possibly 4″ snow. Just when all the fruit trees are gorgeous with bloom. I’ll cover my currants and gooseberries, and the strawberry beds that are blooming, but the trees are too big. Also going to throw cover over the just beginning asparagus. Last year a freeze got too much of it! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.


  2. Going Batty in Wales says:

    Those look beautiful but I am with you in preferring the clumps to the ribbon planting. We have had sharp frosts every night for over w week and it has knocked everything back.


  3. Gwen Lantz says:

    I am enjoying all your photos. I especially like how your deck bed is looking. So beautiful!


  4. Beautiful and generous plantings! I actually really like the front garden border, it’s exuberant and naturalist looking! But the clumps look good too.


    • carolee says:

      I’ve been looking at them more, from different angles and distances. Beginning to think I rather like having different styles, at least this year. Also thinking…there’s sure going to be a lot of deadheading soon!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not sure if it’s because I rarely have a plan, but I think I’m most happy with clumps too, Carolee. Ribbons do look nice in formal garden settings, but I truly love “splashes” of color and interest. To be honest, I’m often surprised by what opens in any given spot…but I love surprises.

    ‘Blushing Lady’ is a real beauty. Your garden is always very pleasing to the eye.


    • carolee says:

      I’ve had some tulip surprises this year…a yellow with red streaks that I didn’t order, and a beautiful soft apricot that I’d love to have 100 of!!! Sounds like you are having a wonderful trip down south!

      Liked by 1 person

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