This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
The continuance of mild weather has caused the green spike of Tulips to appear above ground earlier than usual, consequently no time should be lost in procuring and preparing the means securely to protect them on the first appearance of frost; for this purpose, place light iron hoops (made of 1/4-inch rod iron) over the bed, about eight inches from the surface, and two feet apart; on the top of the hoops, longitudinally with the bed, lay four lengths of rod iron, the same size as the hoops, fastening them where they cross the latter, with horticultural wire. This method allows the covering to be much nearer the surface of the bed than the hoops which it will be necessary to use when the Tulips are more advanced, and will afford a better protection. The materials we use for covering have generally been two mats, one placed over the other; these are nailed lengthways to a strip of deal two inches square, which plan we find very convenient, for the mats are thus prevented being blown off by the wind, the strips of deal keeping them down, and if the hoops be raised about the third of a circle, the mats will then throw off a considerable quantity of rain, and on every fine day they can very easily be rolled up, and thus will be avoided the littering and untidy appearance which loose mats are sure to make.
Four or five years since, during the continuance of a very severe frost, we covered entirely with straw close to the surface of the bed; when the frost broke, on removing the straw, we found the Tulips nearly all up, and a miserable sight they were, not green, but very yellow, we feared the worst; but fancy our joyous surprise to see in a few days (the weather continuing open and mild) our pets assume as healthy an appearance as we have ever observed, and of all the beds of bloom we have had, that season was the best; and should hard frost set in and continue, and the Tulips not be above ground, we should certainly wrap them up in a straw bed again. Last season, a friend of ours, a paper-manufacturer, presented us with some felting, and it answered the purpose exceedingly well; this can be procured very cheap of any paper-maker, of any length, and wide enough to cross the bed. These are the only methods of covering we have practised; we have heard of a waterproof transparent canvass for the purpose, but have never used or seen it. In answer to an inquirer, Tulip seed should be sown in October or November, in boxes or pans, five or six inches deep; if all be well, full directions shall be given on this subject at the proper time.
Where seed is sown, protect from heavy rain and frost by a hand-light: heat or forcing of any kind we conceive to be very injurious.
Wycombe. J. Hunt.
The only attention Tulips will require during this month is to guard them well from frost; and as soon as they are all visible, carefully to stir the surface of the bed on a mild dry day. Wycombe. J. Hunt.
The mildness of the present season has rendered Tulips unusually forward, consequently the greater is the liability of their receiving damage if a sharp frost should occur: if a fine and perfect bloom be wished for, a vigilant attention to secure them from the least frost should now be bestowed - let the surface of the bed be stirred, and pull up all weeds immediately they appear; examine minutely the whole bed, and see that no water is retained inside the foliage. If such be the case, gently separate the leaves with the hand, and the water will drain out. The cause of Tulips withering half way down the stem, just before they bloom, no doubt, in many cases, arises from water remaining for some time within the foliage, and becoming frozen. Of all flowers, the Tulip will more especially repay every little attention given it, by a superior display of fine and perfect blooms. Wycombe. J. Hunt.
Do not allow the beds to become crusted upon the surface; and to prevent this, stir the surface carefully, particularly before blooming-time. It is to be presumed that your covering, such as is recommended in this work, vol. i., is in its place, and is used for the necessary protection. Frosts such as we had in the middle of last month would prove its usefulness against both cold and cats. Follow the instructions given in April last year; and if the latter end of the month is very dry, give a slight watering in the evening over the foliage, through a fine-rosed water-pot, and immediately cover the bed with the mats. The freshness and vigour consequent on this will be apparent in the morning.
High Wycombe. J. Hunt.
The Tulip bloom this year will be unusually early; the fine growing weather and warm rains of the early part of April have caused them to grow luxuriantly. The buds are now fast shewing colour. Get the top and side-cloths on immediately: the top-cloth, being on pulleys, can be let down instantly when a shower of rain or hail threatens. When they shew colour, the direct rays of the sun must be excluded; but let them have all the air possible. If the weather be very hot and dry during the height of the bloom, let the paths around the bed be watered in the evening; by this means the freshness and vigour of the blooms will be considerably prolonged. As soon as the flowers begin to fade, and the beauty of the bed to decline, take off the cloths, and expose the plants to the weather.
Wycombe. J. Hunt.