Spring is officially here, the sun isn’t shining, but the bulbs are blooming, and that means tulips.
Tulips in my opinion are a beautifully simplistic, exceedingly elegant flower that look absolutely stunning arranged in nearly every way you can think of. One white stem can look very sophisticated sitting in a vase on a table, there is nothing more gorgeous than a bunch wrapped in brown paper and given to a friend, a handful looks effortless spilling from a jug, or they can create a massive impact by having their waxy vivid hues displayed on mass in a perfect dome in a great urn.
Introduced to the Europeans in 1554 via a gift from the Ottoman Empire they were considered such a rare luxury in the 17 Century that wars were fort over them, and they crashed the economy. To this day the Dutch still have many words meaning tulip mania – tulpenmanie, tulpomanie, tulpenwoede and tulpengekte. Quite amazing considering you can now buy two packs of seven for £5 at the supermarket. One single bulb is once recorded for being sold for two lasts of wheat, four lasts of rye, four fat oxen, eight fat swine, 12 fat sheep, two hogsheads of wine, four casks of beer, two tons of butter, a complete bed, a suit of clothes and a silver drinking cup. Awesome right?!!
Despite this, tulips are amazingly easy to grow, which means that even I get results, and let’s face it, you’d like a high probability of blooms if you’d sold your last ox. They do best in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun, sheltered from strong winds and all breeds dislike excessively wet conditions, which makes for a great pot plant. Plant your bulbs in mid to late autumn, and hold tight till spring.
To arrange tulips remove foliage to taste, if doing a fairly rustic arrangement I tend to leave the leaves on, but to create that elegance and eliminate bulk, removing all the leaves and cleaning up the stems with the help of a blade looks fantastic. Cut the stems on a slant with a pair of scissors and place them in a clean vase with fresh water and Bobs your Uncle.
Be aware when using tulips in arrangements that once placed in water, they can grow up to 5cm and will also tend to twist towards the light. I love this about them, but if you’re creating a hand tie sink them slightly deeper into the arrangement if you don’t want them sticking up out of it in a couple of days.