'Then comes the tulip race, where Beauty plays Her ideal freaks: from family diffus'd, To family, as flies the father dust, The varied colours run.'
TULIPS will thrive in any ordinary garden border that has been manured months earlier; they will fail in freshly manured ground, except when the manure used is sufficiently old and so deep down that the roots can only strike it when they have attained their growth in length. But there is a way to build up tulip beds safely a few weeks before planting: this is by using from a stock of compost prepared in spring, kept out of doors in semi-shade, and turned twice during summer. October is the first planting month, the work being continued throughout November and December. After this, retarded bulbs may be used, which means bulbs that were put as soon as bought (viz. September or October) into air-tight dry receptacles and stored in an exceedingly cold place.
To make a Tulip bed thus, the stack has to be built up of equal parts of fresh loam, leaf-mould, old cow-manure, and a half part of river-sand. Some cultivators prefer a whole part of sand.
The garden ground is removed, to a depth of a foot or more, the subsoil forked well and weeded, as weed or tree roots may be as deep as that even. Some pebbles and broken crocks are put in first, for 3 inches of drainage, and then the compost from the stack fills up to the level. It is best to use it fairly coarse and 'tussocky' below, slightly less coarse next, then fine, put through a sieve, for the top inch or two. A good bed is generally raised an inch or 2 inches above the ground level, but extra compost is put on over the bulbs, after they have been well pressed into the bed; and it is also advisable to let the bed be highest along the middle, sloping gently on all sides. A bed like this has to be protected by canvas, or matting, supported over wood or iron hoops, during frosty or very wet weather.
Another kind of bed, or the borders where Tulips grow in ordinarily good soil, has a mulch of coco-nut-fibre refuse, or any other dry covering material used by gardeners, so does not need mat protection.
The first sort of bed may be chosen for culture of extra fine types and varieties of Tulip: the second for all usual kinds and purposes.
Special beds can be built up, to a height of 18 inches, or rather less, on any sort of hard foundation, pavement, gravel, etc., the sides held in position by inverted turves, wood, wire-netting, tiles, or rocks.
This enables the gardener to have grand displays in courtyards and roof gardens, on poor soil, or balconies.
The Ordinary Or Garden Tulip, double or single, may be cultivated out of doors, or in frames and unheated glasshouses, or in rooms entirely, if there is enough air (that is pure) and full light and sunshine.
Sunshine, adequate drainage, and fairly nourishing soil are essential for Tulip culture out of doors. Plant bulbs from October to the second week of December, 4 or 5 inches deep, 6 to 8 inches apart. Mulch with dry material, such as coco-nut-fibre, heather, gorse, very ancient manure, bracken fern, or a mixture of hop manure and dried leaves.
If the season is droughty a watering may be given in March.
The surface soil should be delicately pricked over, by a hand-fork or spud, directly it seems to be getting caked or weedy.
Sticks and ties are needed by all the taller species and varieties. Unless seed is to be saved, spent blooms should be removed, broken off about midway down the stems.
Plants must grow on until the foliage has completely withered up, otherwise the bulbs will not bloom the following year; but they can be lifted from the ornamental positions as soon as the flowers are over, and replanted at once in sunny waste borders to finish maturing.
In July the bulbs can be lifted, laid out in sunny attics or sheds, but not directly in the sunshine, for a week, to dry, then be stored in a cool place. If they are exposed to air they become damp, and may sprout, or rot, but if, when properly dried, they are shut into tins or boxes, no harm can result. Offsets should be removed, similarly dried, then planted in sunny borders in November, where they can remain undisturbed the three or four years or so that must elapse before they blossom. Parrot Tulips and Darwin Tulips, which are long-stemmed and very beautiful - the former curiously fringed, splashed, streaked, and green-shaded among gorgeous hues, the latter of innumerable pale or rich hues and satiny petals - may be used for beds to flower later than ordinary Tulips. In the last class, doubles are later than singles, and the miniature, Van Thol Tulips, are earliest of all.
Parrot And Darwin Tulips may be treated as herbaceous plants, left out always in borders, and divided every third or fourth year. So may the various Tulip species, and all the hardy May-blooming Single Tulips, of which bulb vendors can all offer extensive lists.
The ordinary Tulip seldom dies from being left out in the ground, but deteriorates rapidly.
For Tulip culture in pots use a compost of two parts fresh loam, one of really decayed manure - cow-manure for preference - and half a part of sand. Pot the Van Thol varieties and other earlies first, in September, and in batches at fortnightly intervals till December, for succession; the other kinds from October onwards.