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Tulips in Twenty Twenty One


Tulips are a major floral boon in the quiet months of April and May when the herbaceous perennials have not quite got themselves out of the ground, but colour and cover is needed in the garden. However, they are a fickle plant which does not like our wet winters, and so often don’t reappear year after year because the bulbs rot in the ground.

Guy and the Gardens and Grounds team, as part of their five-year plan to move the garden away from the use of bedding plants to a more sustainable and lower-maintenance mixed border approach, are now looking at how we can continue with a phenomenal tulip display without the biannual work of planting and pulling up each year.

To support the implementation of the plan, the team has devised a series of tulip trials. This year, alongside the regular planting of tulips and other bulbs in the borders, Guy will be planting a large number of bulbs in the lower garden which will be then left as long as possible to see how they fare through the seasons. The aim is to find a bulb that can withstand our wet winters, and which can, therefore, be left in the ground throughout the year.

Guy has chosen specific varieties of tulip, those which have been grown locally in similar conditions and particular varieties which have been shown to be able to perform as perennials such as lily tulips and Darwin hybrids.  But this is not simply a trial for survival. The team will also assess tulip performance in terms of growth, sturdiness, spread, attractiveness and overall health after lengthy periods in our soil. The plan is to plant around the rest of the garden those tulips which pass the trial.

So in future years, perhaps with a lot less effort on the part of the Grounds and Gardens team (we hope!), we will have the sorts of displays experienced this year which enabled us to give dozens of bunches of tulips to local NHS workers and caregivers.

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