What a wonderful abundance of tulips there are at the moment, especially in our public parks. I have about seven in my lady garden.
Take a good look at my illustration and you will better understand bulb cultivation and what is going on down below.
It has always surprised me how many teenage boys are interested in gardening, paying homage to bulb-growing with little botanical doodles in the margins of their schoolbooks. And yet their teachers tell them off for it!
The Tulip (wankius offikuss) ranges from four inches to 28 inches with fleshy, strap-shaped leaves and they usually have just one flower per stalk, making them good value at 99p a bunch from Tesco’s.
Giving a yellow or red tulip has historically been a declaration of love, with the black centre of the cup-shaped flower representing a heart burned out by passion after a night at Wetherspoons and a chicken vindaloo. There are tulip festivals around the world, including such exotic locations as Spalding in Lincolnshire.
In 1637 Tulip Mania hit Holland with fanatics paying the price of a HOUSE for a single bulb. This makes a bag of them from B & Q an absolute bargain. Of course you could try making an estate agent an offer with a tulip bulb for a three-bed semi in Ipswich Town, or a terrace of them in Norwich City.
Tulips are easy to grow, with bulbs going in around October to January. For maximum satisfaction, planting depth is a good six inches. Simply stick the bulb in the hole pointy side up. If you have a problem, try replanting deeper next time! At this time of year, just water them well. A single tulip looks lovely in a used Adnams bottle.
People often ask me: “What is the difference between a perennial and an annual?”
The answer is that a perennial plant comes back year after year, which for skin-flint, lazy Suffolk Gazette readers, are a good bet. Favourite perennials are foxgloves and hollyhocks, cone-flowers, delphiniums and lupins. And there’s nothing more pleasing to my eye in the middle of the bed than the sight of a good red-hot poker.
An annual on the other hand, is a book that normally comes out at Christmas for Beano or Star Wars fans, and often has a selection of short stories and a little maze to find your way through with a felt-tip pen.
I’ve been busy this week preparing my plant labels. I make them from used lolly sticks. My personal favourite is the white chocolate Magnum. I needed 54 and after completing the job I can hardly squeeze through the greenhouse door. But think of all the money I saved instead of buying ready-made labels from Wyevale’s!
I’ve also been tending my young plants I grew on from my seedlings after hardening off. I found some short and curly ones in the shed, then remembered they were parsley.
Jobs to do this week
Jobs that you should be doing this week are planting your dahlia tubers now that the frost has gone. Dahlias and asters are back in fashion and make wonderful cut flowers, as do the underrated poor old carnations. With the dahlias, I like a good spiky one while my husband likes a tight Pom Pom.
Grappling with plums
I notice many of your questions are about issues with your plums. If you want to grow some, get yourself along to a good plumsman. I can recommend The Julian Clary Garden Centre off the A14 in Nacton.
Plums come in all shapes and sizes, with the most famous English one being The Victoria, named after Queen Victoria who liked to grab Prince Albert by his in the garden at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. They had nine children as a result.
I love plums but often find the supermarket imports disappointing with a dark mouldy centre where they have been chilled in transit. You need to beware of getting your plums too cold.
If you don’t like the taste of plums, I would recommend a good dollop of Ambrosia tinned custard to help things along.
Your other questions answered
* Ms S B of Stowmarket: Well, I can we’ll see your frustration. I think you should get an extendable hose pipe.
* Fred from Trimley: They sound like absolute whoppers. Have you thought of exhibiting at the Women’s Institute garden show?
* Mr T S from Ipswich: You really needn’t worry about things like a deformed carrot. It’s not what you’ve got but what you do with it.
That’s it for now. Have a good week!
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