In the Gardens Monthly Inspiration with Fiona Slight our Head Gardener

Planting tulips for spring colour pops, November 2020

Over the next few months, Fiona Slight (Head Gardener at Rudding Park) will be sharing top tips and inspiration to get your garden ready for Summer. 

If the winter days and this current strange situation is starting to get you down, it’s the perfect time of year to plant some bulbs. Tulips, in particular are perfect to plant now, and will fill you with the anticipation of the wonderful colour to come in the spring to help cheer you up.

There are hundreds of cultivars to choose from, and these are divided up into 15 different groups which include Lily flowered group, Triumph group, Fringed group, Parrot group and Darwin hybrid group. At Rudding Park, we tend to use a mixture of these in containers to produce a wonderful mixture of colours and textures.

Tulips are perfect for containers and indeed most bedding types flower at their best the first year they are planted.  The varieties we are using this year are: ‘Paul Scherer’, ‘Slawa’, ‘Queen of the Night’, ‘Recreado’, ‘Princess Irene’ and ‘Purple Prince’.  A mixture of orange and purple shades that really pull a punch when they are in full flower.


Throwback to last year's spring colour pops at Rudding Park

We use large, deep pots for our displays, planting the bulbs in layers between 20cm and 8 cm deep.  The deeper you plant the better the flower, this is especially important when you plant in the ground.  You can plant the bulbs closer together in containers as the bulbs will not be staying there permanently and it does add to the overall impact.  Just make sure they are at least a ‘fingers width’ apart to avoid them touching and the possibility of passing on a fungal disease.

Any well-drained multipurpose compost will work well, but make sure you add drainage to the base such as crocks or gravel. This will ensure the bulbs don’t sit in water and potentially rot off. 

After that, it’s simply a case of finding a sheltered, sunny position to locate your pot. Of course, you could store the pot until you are ready to place it into its final position or you could just place it where you want it to flower and enjoy watching them develop over the winter and early spring.  Don’t forget to check the pots for water as they can dry out very easily, especially if we get a dry spring.

Top tip: it is possible to re-plant the bulbs once they have finished flowering, but make sure you dead head the flower as soon as it has finished flowering and re-plant it in its new position straight away.  Don’t forget grit for drainage if needed and a little general fertiliser in the planting hole just to get them going.  Word of warning, some cultivars will re-flower better than others!

So, to tempt you to get out there and plant those bulbs, I thought I would finish with a few ‘throwback’ images to April this year. The Rudding Park tulips came into full flower just as lockdown began, so whilst it was a shame our guests didn’t get to see the array of colour bursts, it was reassuring and joyful to see there was no stopping Mother Nature.  Roll on spring 2021!

Happy planting!

Explore Rudding Park Kitchen Garden

Share this story: