March was even madder weather-wise than February; bits were freezing (well, not actually ‘freezing’ in south-west London but very chilly) and now we are having a mini heatwave. I have daffs, chionodoxa, and a few tulips all flowering at the same time. Allium cowanii, which I’ve never grown before has been a massive success. By the time I came to plant them I’d run out of space so I jammed the little bulbs into an already-over full window box. They have twisted their way delightfully in between the existing plants and are the most wonderful pure white. Oh and the kerria has gone charmingly crazy.
For the first time last autumn I bought my bulbs from de Jaeger. In the past I’ve used a combination of Parkers, Sarah Raven and whatever I was enticed by in the local garden centres. Many of the pre-packaged bulbs may seem like amazing value (£5.99 for a huge bag of mixed parrot tulips) but if only a few actually flower they aren’t such a bargain. One particular bargain bag actually worked out at about £3 per tulip and they were all a rather dull red. The de Jaeger catalogue is beautiful and the website is easy to use. At first glance their bulbs may seem expensive but closer inspection reveals that the reasonably ordinary bulbs are no more expensive than most other suppliers; it is the rarer ones that are, justifiably, more pricey. They also stress that the bulbs they send out are larger and therefore more likely to flower well. I opted for a selection of the cheaper cultivars and, for once in my life, kept an accurate record of what I’d planted where. So far I’ve had a one hundred per cent success rate; all the bulbs I planted have flowered.
At first I was rather disappointed that the tulips ‘Negrita’ and ‘Passionale’ appeared identical as the catalogue descriptions waxed lyrical, describing ‘Negrita’ as “warm deep purple, veined beetroot-purple” and ‘Passionale’ as “lilac-purple flamed with deep purple” – no, they are both just “purple”, a perfectly nice colour but completely lacking the two-tone effects promised. Then I peered inside the open flowers and saw the centres: one blue and the other yellow – all is forgiven; as my garden is very small it is exactly this sort of detail I love.
These tulips are included not because I grew them (they were bargains from my local Waitrose) but because of their resilience. I put them in the vase and much to my disgust within two days they were flopping helplessly all over the place. Close inspection revealed that I’d failed to give them any water. I trimmed the stems, gave them a good drink and by the following morning they were fine, and remained so for another week.