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Tips for tulips

The question asked by my blog is ‘can beautiful cut flowers and foliage be grown in a Scottish garden?’ At points this week I have wondered if I am a bit crazy in trying to do this! The weather from glorious sunshine last week turned back into freezing temperatures, wind, snow and sleet showers. I am not sure what my children must think of me as I shout at dinner ‘there’s snow again!’ and dash out the door to run round the garden at top speed covering everything thats uncovered back over again with fleece! Only time will tell if the fleece has been enough to protect my new little plants. What I did  learn from last year the hard way is not to plant everything out at once, so I do have some back up plants in the conservatory for emergency use.


The weather may have been very cold again at the beginning of the week but by the end it had started to settle and I was keen to fill my stall with what was looking best in the garden. Without a doubt it is the tulips which have been blooming away happily over the last few days. This year was a first for me growing these lovely flowers and I have just dipped my toe in the water by planting only 150 of them. I really did not know if people would be interested in buying them. I know previously in spring I would buy daffodils for a vase and walk by the tulips on a display.

My opinion has completely changed and I have a new found appreciation for these flowers. They have so many good characteristics. The stems are strong and sturdy for arranging and they last a long time in a vase. They are also very quirky, after you have cut them they just keep on growing. I love to watch them change and see them close at night and open in the sunlight – when we have some sun! There are so many varieties too. This year I planted a few more unusual ones such as ballerina, purissima and queen of the night, but after some research I now have a rather large wish list of scented varieties to plant next year. Between the tulips and the daffodils I think I might be very busy with my bulb planting in the autumn!

Over the last few months I have been learning all sorts of tricks to keep your tulips lasting and standing up straight, which I thought I would share with you. Maybe you use some of these ideas already or maybe you know of a different method for straight tulips. If so I would love to know your ideas.

My granny swears by putting some copper pennies in the bottom of the vase to keep your tulips standing up straight. This is an old well known trick many people use but if you would like to try it you must look for old coins. It is the copper in the coins which is said to act on the tulips and today solid copper coins are no longer minted. In 1992 1p and 2p coins started to be made of steel with just a thin copper plate. Maybe you have some old coins at home you could keep just for putting in the bottom of your vase.


Another trick to prevent your flower heads drooping is to put a pin in the tulip stem just below the flower head. This allows trapped air to escape and water to travel up the stem.

Some people use 7-up or sprite mixed in with the water in their vase and it is said to feed the tulips and help them last. I am unsure of this method as the sugar from the drink may feed the flowers but also encourage bacterial growth.

Many people use flower food to help their arrangements last as long as possible. However I have found that flowers will last a long time without this, as long as they are properly conditioned before you buy them and you follow the tips below when you get them home. When you buy your flowers from my garden gate stall I will have freshly cut them the night before. This way they will be least stressed when cut and less likely to be losing water through their leaves in the heat of the day. I wrap the bunches of tulips in newspaper and tie them with twine to help keep them straight. They are then placed in a bucket of water for a long drink overnight in a cool dark environment. By the time you see them on the stall in the morning they are as fresh as can be and in top condition.

Once you buy them and get them home there are a couple of essential things to keep your tulips looking their best. Clean cool water is very important and a clean vase. I add a couple of drops of thin household bleach to the water to prevent bacteria building up. Remove all the leaves on the tulip that would be below the water line and recut the stems at an angle so that they have as big a surface area as possible to take up water. Remember your tulips will keep growing in your vase and you might want to recut the stems every few days. Keep your tulips away from direct sunlight and sources of heat such as radiators to help make them last as long as possible.

I hope you have found the tips on tulips helpful and that you find a spot in your home this spring to enjoy these beautiful flowers.

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