Invest in tulips in the autumn. Contrary to popular belief it is possible to ‘keep them going’ for a number of years, either planted in the garden, or grown in containers. If this succeeds your display will improve yearly as you buy extra bulbs each autumn.
If you have a well-drained and sunny site they can be planted among herbaceous plants and shrubs. Tulips have the merit, not shared by daffodils, of having foliage that declines very swiftly once their flowers have finished. In addition, the young growth of your permanent plants will quickly hide the fading foliage
The best varieties for the garden are the taller forms, 30cm or more high. The key to success is to plant deep – deeper than is recommended on the packet. If you plant them at a depth of around 20cm they are unlikely to be disturbed by subsequent activity. If you plant them by shrubs allow for likely spread of the shrubs over the next few years or the tulips may appear in the midst of their branches.
The tulips will completely disappear in summer, so mark the spot or take a photo when they are in flower. Photos like this can be used to plan the colours that you will add in the following years.
There are innumerable hybrid tulips. The growing season can be slightly extending by growing some ‘single early tulips’ which should flower in mid April. In many cases the larger tulips provide their chief show in May.
Dwarf tulips can be particularly attractive when grown in pots that can be moved as the flowers open so they can be seen from the windows. The foliage of many forms starts just above the soil and can be splashed by dirt. It is worth covering the soil surface with slate chips or coarse gravel. (Don’t use builders gravel as it may contain salt.) These tulips will often last in containers for several years. If you plan to keep them, give them a potash-rich feed when they are in flower. Alternately they can be placed in a dry sunny position for the summer and repotted the following autumn in fresh compost.