BRIAN KIDD: Tulips might have faded from fashion, but we love them!

Bulb fields in all their glory are one of the most stunning sights in horticulture.
Bulb fields in all their glory are one of the most stunning sights in horticulture.

SOUTHSEA GREEN: The head gardener writes...

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BRIAN KIDD: Gardening jobs for the weekend and your problems solved

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In the 1960s we grew more tulips in fields in eastern parts of England than were grown in Holland.

There were wonderful celebrations at Spalding in Lincolnshire, and I’m sure many of you enjoyed coach trips there for the carnival with dozens of floats decorated with tulip flowers, and for tours of the bulb fields.

Sadly, tulips are not so popular these days but you and I can grow some because they are gorgeous.

Pam and I went to the garden centre and bought more. The amazing thing is that the flower is already in the bulb. Cut the bulb in half, look inside and you can see the bud is already there. All they need is moisture, light and air.

Let’s plant some!

Tulips are readily available, just look at the picture on the pack and choose the colour you like best.

All those bought in packs will produce flowers because the bulbs are large. But beware if you see what appears to be a bargain in cheap magazines because the bulbs will be smaller than usual and won’t all produce a flower, just leaves. Price is always a guide to good quality.

Blue looks great if grown with something pink. Pink tulips would look great.

Orange Ballerina is stunning when grown with fragrant Golden Bedder wallflowers. The tulips zoom above the wallflowers and both flower together. Ballerina is long-lasting and has a lovely perfume, we love it and it is Pam’s favourite colour.

Buy a few tulips each week and plant them this month to avoid slug damage.

They should be planted point upwards with three inches of soil above the top of the bulb.

A tablespoon of sharp sand beneath each bulb will protect them from slugs. The sand will also make sure they are not in cold, wet soil.

I remember our grandchildren, Rebecca, who at the time was 10 going on 15 and David, nine, saw pictures on the packs of tulips and asked me which ones to plant? I suggested for little boys, planting Pinocchio, for little girls, Red Riding Hood. Guess what? They planted them the right way up!

I adore tulips and hope you find the colour you like best. Don’t plant ‘mixed’.

Red is wonderful with yellow, orange beautiful with dark blue forget-me-nots. Merry Widow, a pink, looks good with light blue forget-me-nots.

See if you can find West Point, a remarkable lily-flowered tulip. It’s bright yellow with pointed flower tips. If you can find it, your spring garden will be admired.

Want something different? Plant black tulips called Queen of the Night or La Tulipe Noir (both often called black tulips) with golden polyanthus or a yellow evergreen such as euonymus Emerald ’n’ Gold. The contrasting colours are unique, even in a container, or better still where you can see them from your favourite armchair.

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

Keep an eye out for rats and mice, particularly if you store potatoes, onions and root crops in a shed.

Keep some rat bait in a nailed down plastic saucer and keep 20 pellets in the saucer. When the bait is gone, you have vermin. When it remains, you know you haven’t!

There are a wide range of baits at garden centres.