I remember planting tulips with my mom on a cold Thanksgiving morning when I was about ten years old. I think my uncle had given us a few dozen “Red Emperor” bulbs, and we waited until the last minute to plant them. I can still see that bright red bloom with the dark center, and how my mom and I decided that they were well worth the effort it took to get them into the ground before it froze. Through the years I always loved the “Emperor” tulips which later included whites and yellows, but I usually stuck with the red.
In spite of our first Woof’s appetite for tulips, I think I’ve planted them for as long as I can remember. When I first saw ” Angelique” in the catalogs, I ordered about fifty of them, and I ended up sweeping up the”oohhs” and “ahhhs” when they lined my front walk with blooms that looked like peonies. To my dismay, they didn’t come back the next year, and I was really disappointed.
All through the years I was accustomed to having my tulips come back year after year…only gradually petering out as happens with almost everything but peonies.
The bulb catalogs promise such unbelievably gorgeous flowers for the coming Spring…and they do deliver….but usually only for one year, and that’s a lot of work in the Fall for a really brief display. About ten years ago I discovered the ” Darwin Hybrids “….called “the perennial” tulips…and guess what. They return year after year after year. They come in a wide range of colors…maybe not as fancy as the feathery “parrots” or the doubles, but they’re strong, and really reliable. I buy mine from VAN BOURGONDIEN wholesale…(they sell to anybody), I don’t like anything else they sell…but the tulips have always been great.
I think one has to be an optimist to plant bulbs in the Fall. Usually it’s the last thing I feel like doing at that time of year, because it means cleaning the garden out so I can get in and plant, and Woof and I are getting ready to hibernate anyway. A few years ago I bought a plant drill that comes on a long shaft and will dig a quick hole, and allows me to buzz along pretty quickly, but I usually end up on my hands and knees just scooping out some dirt and tossing the bulbs in with a lick and a promise. The Darwin Hybrids get bigger and sturdier after the first year….but trust me, an hour or two with a patient dog, and a few dozen tulip bulbs on a crisp Autumn day before the ground freezes is a worthwhile investment….AND it gives you another reason to check out the garden in March for the first signs of Spring.