Archive for September, 2012

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Tiptoeing Through The History Tulips

September 29, 2012

tulip.jpgLast week we looked at bulbs and different ways of planting them, so I thought that this week we could take a closer look at one of the most well known bulbs, tulips.

The Dutch are renowned for their passion for tulips and tulip growing has been a major crop since the 1600s.

Today nearly half of Holland’s flower bulb farms are planted with tulips.  Every year about 3 billion tulip bulbs are produced in Holland and around 2 billion of these are exported.

Surprisingly, tulips are not a native plant of Holland.

Tulips originate from Asia, their prime genetic centre being in the Tien-Shan and Pamir Alai Mountain Ranges near modern Islamabad, close to the border or Russia and China.

Tulips spread from these areas to other regions including China and Mongolia.  A secondary genetic centre developed in Azerbaijan and Armenia and from these area tulips spread to parts of Europe.

Tulips can be found today growing wild in regions of the Balkans, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and France with one French native being the Tulipa celsiana.  Strangely enough, the natural advance of tulips never reached the Netherlands.

Dutch tulip history begins in 1593 when the botanist Carolus Clusius planted the first tulips in Holland when he was appointed as the head botanist at thetulip.jpg first botanical garden in Western Europe at the University of Leiden.

It was Carolus’ refusal to give his prized tulip bulbs away that fuelled a demand for them as people saw a chance to make money from these new plants.  Unfortunately a burglary of Carolus’ collection followed and this could be said to be the start of the Dutch tulip industry.

The cultivation of tulips on Holland began slowly and at first the tulip was a rarity that only the wealthy could afford with tulips becoming a status symbol.

It wasn’t long before the tulip craze took off.  During Tulipmania, the tulip.jpgrenowned white and maroon “Rembrandt-type” tulip “Semper Augustus” could command a price as high as 3,000 guilders per bulb, that’s the equivalent of $1,500 U.S today.

Only a short time later a similar bulb fetched 4,500 guilder ($2,250 U.S), plus a horse and carriage!  Just like the dot-com crash of the nineties, the tulip crash of 1637 followed the boom.  People who had thought of themselves as very rich were now reduced to poverty literally overnight.

Today, tulips continue to be a popular flower and the Dutch will be forever associated with this plant mainly due to the Tulipmania of the 1600s.

So the next time you plant some tulips in your garden, remember the tulip boom of the 17th century and the extraordinary history of this beautiful flower.

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Brighter Bulbs

September 22, 2012

I think that this time in the gardening year is so exciting with the new season of bulbs coming into the shops and garden centres. I’ve just recently treated myself to a bag of tulip bulbs aptly named ‘Red Riding Hood’ which will be a rich red colour with flamboyant bold wide leaves which will have dark maroon markings.

Other bulbs that I’ll be looking out for will be a tall variety of the purple Allium, which is the Latin name for “garlic” and these bulbs are part of the ornamental onion family. I’ll be planting these so that they’ll grow through some silver foliaged plants to make what I think is an attractive colour combination of the lilac-purple and silver colour scheme.

I think planting in combinations can have a stunning effect and it’s fun to experiment with different contrasts, foliage, colours and shapes.

One combination I have in my own garden at the moment consists of black grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ planted together with the almost black coloured tulip ‘Queen of the Night’.

You can tell I love black flowers and plants.

Bulbs are so useful in the garden as they take up little space and are super to use as fillers amongst other plants and like I said, you can create decorative planting combinations with them. Another way to use bulbs is to plant them into pots or containers and use them in the borders where you have gaps and after they have finished flowering you can simply move them elsewhere.

Another interesting way to use bulbs in the garden is to naturalise them into a grassy area. Daffodils, Crocuses and the small variety of Fritillaria with its delicate nodding bell flower heads are great for this.

The secret to planting these bulbs is to just get a small handful of bulbs and throw them down onto the ground and where they fall is where you plant them. This way you will get a more natural look as opposed to planting them specifically in a set pattern.

For those of you without a garden, you can still make use of bulbs, as there are so many that can be grown indoors.

One indoor bulb that’s familiar to many is the Hyacinth, which is often grown in a glass container filled with water so you could see the roots growing. Hyacinths have a wonderful strong scent that can certainly fill the house.

Many indoor bulbs come already planted up in containers and are all set to grow without much preparation, however you can easily plant up your own container with spring-flowering bulbs of small daffodils, tulips, crocuses and irises. Plant some small leafed ivy into the container to add extra foliage interest and voila, you have your own instant indoor mini spring garden.


 

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The Creeping Up Of A New Season

September 14, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-41.JPGAs I see the first signs of the Virginia creeper’s leaves starting to turn red I know that autumn is just around the corner, but September is still a vibrant and colourful month in the garden.

One ‘sunny’ flower that is in it’s full glory this time of year is the Rudbeckia, with the common name of Black-eyed Susan, as it has a blackish-brown centre with yellow daisy-like flowers. These are easy and reliable plants to grow in any sunny spot and can grow up to three feet tall to make a super late summer, through to early autumn, display in a flower border.

Another ‘good doer’ for the late summer garden is the Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’, which is a clump forming deciduous perennial with upright stems of fleshly leaves that have clusters of small pink star-shaped flowers. This plant has the common name of Ice Plant, as the glaucous fleshly leaves are always cool to the touch. The attractive flower seed head can be left on the Sedum throughout the winter to give interest and then cut away when they have got too tattered.

A climber that is really showing off in my garden at the moment is the Passiflora caerulea, the Blue Passion Flower. The flower of this plant is so exotic and unusual; I really do marvel at its exceptional splendour. This is a fast growing semi evergreen climber that likes a hot sheltered wall and it produces bright orange plum sized fruits in the autumn. Passion Flowers come in a range of other colours such as white, magenta pink, red and purple, but these are not so hardy as the blue variety.

Another pretty climber which is also useful for summer and autumn interest is the Clematis tangutica. It has these lovely dainty lantern-like nodding yellow flowers that transform into wonderful silky swirls of seed heads. This Clematis can grow to a height of fifteen feet and can be hard pruned down to about a foot in spring to give new fresh growth for next season.

There are many enthusiastic and passionate Dahlia growers and I can certainly understand why they’re so keen about this particular flower. The flower heads are truly amazing and their forms range from single petals, to pompom, ball and to decorative forms.

Dahlias flower from mid-summer to autumn until the first frost and also come in a wide variety of colours from whites to reds, yellows to oranges, light pinks to deep purples and will look super in borders. Most Dahlias will need to be lifted unless it is in a frost-free area. After the leaves have been blackened by the first frost, dig out the tubers, brush off the soil and leave in a cool dry place to dry naturally. Then simply dust with a fungicide, pack in boxes of peat or dry sand and store in a cool dry place. The tubers can then be planted out next spring after all danger of any frost has passed.

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As Summer Fades…

September 12, 2012

wwwgardendesignercouk-41.JPGAs I see the first signs of the Virginia creeper’s leaves starting to turn red I know that autumn is just around the corner, but September is still a vibrant and colourful month in the garden.

One ‘sunny’ flower that is in it’s full glory this time of year is the Rudbeckia, with the common name of Black-eyed Susan, as it has a blackish-brown centre with yellow daisy-like flowers. These are easy and reliable plants to grow in any sunny spot and can grow up to three feet tall to make a super late summer, through to early autumn, display in a flower border.

Another ‘good doer’ for the late summer garden is the Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’, which is a clump forming deciduous perennial with upright stems of fleshly leaves that have clusters of small pink star-shaped flowers. This plant has the common name of Ice Plant, as the glaucous fleshly leaves are always cool to the touch. The attractive flower seed head can be left on the Sedum throughout the winter to give interest and then cut away when they have got too tattered.

A climber that is really showing off in my garden at the moment is the Passiflora caerulea, the Blue Passion Flower. The flower of this plant is so exotic and unusual; I really do marvel at its exceptional splendour. This is a fast growing semi evergreen climber that likes a hot sheltered wall and it produces bright orange plum sized fruits in the autumn. Passion Flowers come in a range of other colours such as white, magenta pink, red and purple, but these are not so hardy as the blue variety.

Another pretty climber which is also useful for summer and autumn interest is the Clematis tangutica. It has these lovely dainty lantern-like nodding yellow flowers that transform into wonderful silky swirls of seed heads. This Clematis can grow to a height of fifteen feet and can be hard pruned down to about a foot in spring to give new fresh growth for next season.

There are many enthusiastic and passionate Dahlia growers and I can certainly understand why they’re so keen about this particular flower. The flower heads are truly amazing and their forms range from single petals, to pompom, ball and to decorative forms.

Dahlias flower from mid-summer to autumn until the first frost and also come in a wide variety of colours from whites to reds, yellows to oranges, light pinks to deep purples and will look super in borders. Most Dahlias will need to be lifted unless it is in a frost-free area. After the leaves have been blackened by the first frost, dig out the tubers, brush off the soil and leave in a cool dry place to dry naturally. Then simply dust with a fungicide, pack in boxes of peat or dry sand and store in a cool dry place. The tubers can then be planted out next spring after all danger of any frost has passed.