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Spring Bulb Trial Garden

Good News! All the bulbs that I planted in the fall came up in my raised bed and flowered so beautifully.

Last fall (2019), in mid-November, I planted three types of spring bulbs in our raised bed, which included two varieties of tulips and one variety of Narcissus (Daffodil). I wanted to trial some for the future because I eventually want to grow early spring flowers and do a 3-4 week spring flower bouquet subscription (maybe even next year). I wanted to plant way more than just three varieties, but sadly, my budget didn’t allow that. But, it’s good to start somewhere! I waited to write this blog until after the bulbs all finished flowering to get some pictures and finish observing their stages of blooms as well as experimenting with different harvest times.

Flower farmers grow tulip bulbs in trenches with very close spacing like eggs in a carton. Mine are more spread out because I had more space and not a ton of bulbs. Most flowers are planted closer together to gain better yield for production, especially annuals.

Flower farmers grow tulips as an annual (one growing season), whereas most homeowners and landscapers plant tulips as a perennial (multiple growing seasons; they come back every year). Sometimes tulips are harvested with the bulb, stem, leaves, flower bud, and everything. Once harvested, they are positioned in a crate and/or box standing upright and placed inside a cooler. This way, the tulip is attached to its food source, which allows it to store well for up to 7-10 days for future bouquets and purchases. When ready for use, the tulips are detached from their bulb and placed into water to hydrate and bulbs are composted. You can also harvest the tulips by cutting their stems and leaving the bulb in the ground, but if you don’t leave at least 2 set of leaves on the bulb, it will not produce flowers anymore the next year because you’ve taken away the fuel that the bulb needs. However, narcissus are different. They are harvested by cutting the flower stems. Narcissus multiply each year so they will continue to come back, but will need to be divided in a couple of years to keep them blooming. With narcissus, you are leaving the leaves attached to these plants, which is different than tulips. Each bulb got a mix of bulb food during planting time and at the time of sprouting their leaves.

I’ve listed the three varieties below in the order of bloom time:

1.) Double Peony Tulip ‘Angelique’

This tulip was the first one to emerge from my garden. Her flower heads started as a mix of blush pink, light green and white. Before they completely opened, I harvested about 8 stems with the bulb attached to store for later use. Since I don’t have a flower cooler yet, I placed them in my basement, where it’s cool and dark. The rest of the ones out in the garden started opening up. The petals were a double layer. Their color was mostly white and slightly blush with a stripe of pink on each petal. I eventually cut stems and brought them inside in a vase. They lasted about a week for me in the vase. For Easter, I took the ones I stored and brought them over to my mom. The tips of the petals seemed to shrivel up a little bit and they also had a much lighter color to them compared to the ones outside. It could be because I don’t have a cooler to keep it at a consistent cool temperature and the color difference probably has something to do with the amount of sunlight. The stem length was shorter than I would have liked for arrangements and I may not use them again for floral arrangements, but they are staying in my ornamental beds around my house!

What I loved about Angelique is the longer these tulips stayed outside in their natural habitat, the darker pink their petals got and they were able to open a lot and looked even more like a peony!

2.) Narcissus Fragrant Gardenia

This was the second spring flower to bloom. Shortly after Ms. Angelique’s bloom time. These produced multiple flowers on each stem and were smaller than your normal standard narcissus. The colors of these blooms were gorgeous. Some bloomed with dark to light shades of yellow and others were white with cream/yellow centers. These narcissus don’t have your normal daffodil cup in the center. They have the look of the center of a gardenia flower and the fragrant! So beautiful! The stems were a little short, but taller than Angelique’s. I feel like these would be great in a small vase by themselves or even as a “filler” in a smaller spring daffodil centerpiece. They lasted about a week in a vase. Definitely, recommend for gardens. Imagine them behind some white or purple Muscari (grape hyacinths)!

3.) Parrot Apricot Tulip

These were my ultimate favorite spring bulb this year! I still dream about their orange to yellow to pink petals. These would be the most ideal tulip for selling in the future. The stems were a great length. I want to say they were almost 12” or taller and the flower heads were large. Parrot tulips have serrated petals and almost look feathery to me. I experimented with their harvest times like I did for Angelique variety. I cut about 8 stems, placed them in an upright box and kept them in my cool, dark basement for about 7 days. When I went to detach them from the bulb, the colors were so ugly! Very pale. Barely any color at all! Nowhere near the vibrant oranges and pinks that the ones outside had! I was really disappointed, but I was so ecstatic to harvest stems right out of the trial bed, arrange them in a vase, and use them as a centerpiece. I recommend these for everyone and there are so many other amazing parrot colors. Parrots are by far my favorite tulip variety and I can see myself going overboard and planting a whole field of them someday!

Until I can get a flower cooler installed in the future, what I might do next year is harvest the flowers with the bulbs then detach them from the bulbs and place them in water to be sold within the next few days from harvest time.

For next year, I have so many dreams for spring bulbs probably too much more than my budget can handle, but I’m going to do more experimenting. More tulip colors and more heirloom narcissus! Hopefully, add anemone and ranunculus to the list - cross your fingers! I would love to turn my one raised bed into a mini season extension house so I can get early ranunculus and anemone blooms. Maybe even earlier Iceland Poppy blooms! So many dreams with so little space, but I’m determined and motivated like always!

I would love to get suggestions on what colors and varieties of tulips, narcissus, ranunculus, and anemones you guys would like to see next year! Feel free to comment and tell me your favorites!

Bulbs and the bulb food I bought from K. Van Bourgondien There are other places I am going to purchase in the future. Johnny’s Selected Seeds started selling bulbs. I may try to get some from Floret Flower Farm and Eden Brother’s for next year!

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