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Notes from the Nursery Gardens - November

For the last few days, I’ve been working through the raised beds out in the customer car park. Back in early spring I lifted all the plants and dug through the bed giving it a good weed and conditioning the soil with a good amount of organic compost, a very satisfying task, with the result being a blank canvas ready for a new planting plan. The beds were first planted about 10 years ago with a mix of perennials and shrubs and had lost their structure over the years with certain plants dying or being crowded out by more vigorous neighbours. There were still some good drifts of various hardy geraniums but the Phlomis russeliana had spread too much and the Alchemilla mollis had seeded everywhere. I planted the beds in the spring with a mix of plants that will give a long season of interest, with a good succession of flower colour and structure without the need for staking. This has worked quite well through its first season, although there is always some tweaking to be done. The next step to improve the display is to add the bulb element. I’ve been cutting back the perennials, clearing out the annuals and weeding out some of the self sowers that have got carried away to create space for the bulbs. Normally I would leave the display alone, allowing the skeleton of flower stems and seed heads to stand through the winter but I need space for the bulb planting and would like to add another good mulch of compost while I’m about it.

I am going to plant a variety of species tulips. Unlike their more flamboyant hybrid cousins, the species tulips are truly perennial, bulking up year on year, improving their display, whereas most of the large flowering hybrids tend to diminish after a year or two, creating the need to plant new bulbs to keep the display going. Flowering from early March through to May the species come in a variety of colours from the bright red of T .sprengeri to the soft pink and yellow of T .saxatilis. Although the flowers are smaller with the species, being planted in a raised bed is ideal, as you can get up close to appreciate their beauty. There are about 78 different species, many of which are now endangered due to overgrazing and climate change. Occurring in the mountains and valleys of Central Asia, parts of S E Europe and N Africa, where they grow on free draining rocky ground with long dry hot summers and cold winters, when most of the rainfall occurs. These are the types of conditions we need to replicate in the garden to ensure they can thrive. Good drainage is essential and can be achieved by adding some grit when planting and a nice sunny location. They also do very well in pots where their natural conditions can be easily replicated.

L-R images:

Tulipa clusiana var chrysantha

Tulipa humilis

Tulipa saxatilis