By now the warm up acts are beginning to leave the stage. Time for the tulips to make their appearance. Tulips are indeed the prima donnas of the bulb world. Their size and variety and the intensity of their colors are unequaled. But like the diva's in the opera world, they can be a lot of trouble.
For one thing, not all of their fans are human. Squirrels love tulip bulbs, especially newly planted ones. It is usually a good idea to stake some netting or wire mesh over your tulip bed during its first year. Just leave it there until the first shoots come up in spring.
Tulips also demand a lot of food. I personally do not molly-coddle my flowers, so the ones you see here are survivors. But it is not unusual to find half the bulbs in a bed not flowering three years after they were planted. Those trying to plant full, formal beds usually end up planting tulips as annuals rather fertilizing over and over.
Once the show is over tulips leave quite a mess. At one time or another most of us have tried to snip off the leaves once the bloom was done only to discover that we had no flowers the following year. That ugly mess of leaves is still gathering sunlight and restoring the bulb below ground. It cannot be removed without injuring the plant. Traditionally tulip leaves were braided for the rest of the season. Try that once. I bet you won't do it again.
The easiest way to deal with ugly leaves is to hide them behind something else. If you plan your bulbs to grow behind a nice perennial like a hosta, the tulip will have the stage to itself early in the season and then be able to hide behind its cousin as it tries to prepare itself for next year.
For this week, though, our only duty is to enjoy them in their splendor.