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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

Early Tulips

tulip bouquets
Tulips 'Viking' and 'White Marvel' together in our subscription bouquets

I used to say, “If you can dig a hole, you can grow tulips.” That was when I was a gardener, and it still holds true for anyone who simply wants to grow some beauty for themselves. But now that Don and I are growing flowers to sell, things are more complicated.

I used to grow tulips in two raised beds in our back yard. I ordered bulbs from Colorblends during the summer when there was a good selection. I chilled the bulbs myself, and my family joked about the insanity of having hundreds of bulbs in the refrigerator. After Thanksgiving, when the chill period was over, I planted the bulbs. Usully we had enough winter rain to water them, so I mostly forgot about tulips until they started to poke up out of the ground sometime in January. Then in February and March, depending on the variety, I had gorgeous tulips to admire in the garden or to cut and arrange for our home.

Tulips from my time as a gardener, before the pressure of growing for market ( :

All that changed when Don and I started Tiny Footprint Flowers. We didn’t grow tulips for sale during our first two years as flower farmers, but for the 2022 season we decided to plant 1,850 bulbs. The refrigerator couldn’t hold that many bulbs, so we ordered some of them pre-chilled from the supplier, and the rest we planned to chill in our flower cooler for at least ten weeks. But there were delays in shipping (2021 was the year of supply chain disasters!), so chilling time started late, which meant that planting time was late, which meant that our goal of tulips to sell for Valentine’s Day didn’t happen.

And that wasn’t our only problem, because some of the tulips came up out of the ground and started to bloom on short stems. Was it because they were growing under a streetlight? That was never the case when I grew tulips in the back yard. Or was it because the soil was too warm? These are questions we’re thinking about now, as we try to decide how to improve our next year’s tulip season. But I can share a few tulip successes from out earliest flowers. Below are the winners and losers among our early tulips, and I’ll post again soon on how our late tulips come out.

'White Marvel' and the slightly shorter tulip 'Mondial'; a wrapped bunch of 'Design Impression' blooms; several varieties of tulips in our cooler; a bucket of blooms, mostly 'White Marvel'; closeup of 'Columbus' double pink and 'Viking' double orange.

Early Tulips 2022

White Marvel – a beautiful white single. Good stem length, lasts well in the vase.

Design Impression - a pink single. Good, but not stellar. Long stems, medium size flowers, mediocre vase life.

Columbus – a double flower of deep rose with a small white edge. I think it’s the best of the six early varieties we planted. Good stem length, lasts well in the vase.

Viking – another winner! It was listed as a red double, but I’d call it orange with a yellow center. Stems are on the short side, but adequate.

Mondial – a white double. This one had very poor yield; many of the bulbs didn’t come up. The flowers had aphids, even though the varieties next to it didn’t. I’ve noticed that aphids are discerning, and some flowers are simply more attractive to them, so whenever possible it’s best to find varieties that they don’t like. Like White Marvel.

Pretty Princess – short stems and small flowers, but the blooms are attractive. Might be worth trying this one again.

flower bouquet
Bouquet featuring 'Columbus' tulips and early sweet peas

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