Monday, May 10, 2010

Tulip Bulbs and their ability, or lack thereof, to perennialise.

Growing media

Culture, hybridization and growing media generally go hand in hand but they do represent different aspects when it comes to the ability to perennialise.

Culture is the consideration of relating today’s current tulip bulbs to the original varieties and where they were discovered. Most of the tulip bulbs available commercially come from Holland, where growers have been cultivating them for hundreds of years, but tulips are not native to this part of the world. So where do tulips grow wild? Turkey is the most common answer, but also the rocky hills and mountains of western and central Asia.

Hybridization is human/natures, modification of species tulips to produce different features, color or size. The tulips in parks and homes today are far removed from their wild ancestors. Each time a plant is hybridized it can remove some of the plants natural vigor or ability to sustain itself. The picture is of Tulip Ice Cream, I've seen these online for as much as $7.00 a bulb retail. Talk about a hybrid. Very cool though.

Growing media is simple to understand. The best way to grow a healthy, thriving plant in cultivation is to find out where it comes from and try and mimic the conditions it grows under in the wild. In a tulips case, the original conditions are a rocky sandy soil. The growing conditions in Holland are ideal for the purpose of cultivating tulips since most of the soil consists of a sandy mixture. Unlike areas of the Midwestern United states where the soil content has a high degree of silt and/or clay, a very non-porous constrictive substrate. This growing media does not allow the bulb to expand, thus as a bulb season progresses and the main bulb reduces in size by as much as 75%, it is restricted from even getting back to it’s original size and shape like nature intended, therefore each year after the first it becomes weaker and weaker. Replacing the media with a more conducive mixture is extremely cost prohibitive and unsustainable.

All three of these factors are solid reasons for reduction in a tulip bulb’s ability to perennialise, yet there are many more factors that work against this in a commercially maintained environment. Taking into consideration that soils can be upset by weed prevention, plant replacement, utility workers, domesticated as well as wild animals. A Contractors or homeowners ability to maintain an attractive and acceptable perennial bulb display is extremely difficult.

For more information on Species Tulips see me on Sept. 4, 2010 at Northwind Perennials in Burlington Wisc. where I will be giving a presentation on them.

Thank You.

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