Bulbs forum: Pondering the life of tulip verona

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Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Jun 29, 2017 1:42 PM CST
Hi everyone,

This is the first time I'm posting to this forum--I hope this is the right place to ask some questions about the beautiful tulip verona.

This is a very beautiful tulip and I totally fell in love with it this spring, the first that I had it in my tiny garden. I haven't been able to find any information that says it is a multi-year tulip, so I'm assuming that means that you get to love it for one season, and then, that's it. Does this fit with what you all know?


So here's the thing I'm pondering. I'm wondering how places that sell tulip bulbs get them in the first place. They have to come from somewhere, right? I read that they can be started from seed, but that it then takes quite a long time until they're ready to flower. And then I found this wonderful article that explains that tulips are, really, perennials. http://www.americanmeadows.com...

Obviously, I don't live in the foothills of Turkey (I'm in zone 5b, North-central Massachusetts), and so I'm wondering if anyone has tried digging up their bulbs after their greenery has died off, and storing them in dry, dark conditions until the fall, at which time you would replant them? For anyone who has tried, how did it go?

And whether you have tried or not, if you did try this, what would you store them in? Peet? Peat mixed with soil? Sand? It does get pretty hot here in the summer, but it's not dry at all.

Thanks for pondering with me! Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

AKA Joey.
Sweden
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William
Jun 29, 2017 4:40 PM CST
Welcome to the bulbs forum, Joanna. Smiling

I dig hundred of tulips every year and store them over summer and all tulips I tried are perennial when handled this way. Essentially your doing as the bulb grower does in your own garden. The tricky part might be to keep the bulb size large so the bulb are able to bloom the following years, summer storage is easy. Some tulips can bloom from small bulb sizes and some tulips naturally forms rather large bulbs without dividing too much. These often perform the best in the garden. The worst case is a tulip that divides excessively while requiring a large bulb size to bloom

I read that in some areas in the US tulips (and other spring bulbs) might be harder to grow to blooming size because of high temperatures early in the year. Hopefully this is not true for you. This would essentially force the bulbs into premature dormancy which is something you don't want to as a long growing season gives bigger bulbs.

Fertilize every spring as they emerge to promote big bulbs. It is not usually necessary to repeat this.

Avoid shallow planting and possibly also excessively high storage temperatures in summer (the exception would be some species that require "summer baking" to flower the next year) as high temperatures promotes the growth of many small bulbs. Growing in pots also often makes the bulbs break down into many smaller bulbs.

The correct time to dig tulips for storage is when the foliage has died down and the skin of the bulb has matured. If the skin of the bulb is not fully mature it might be helpful to store the bulbs in dry sand as they would be more susceptible to drying out without their protective layer, but normally this isn't necessary.

Dry the bulb in room temperature or slightly above for a few weeks. Spread them out thinly in one single layer. Then store the bulbs dry in slightly bellow room temperature, still in just one single layer. If you plant late it might be beneficial to further lower the temperature some when autumn approaches. Too high temperatures, particularly when combined with long storage periods can give problems with deformed or aborted flowers, especially in sensitive cultivars. That said storage is usually not super critical as long as they are kept dry and well ventilated. Ventilation is needed as if some of the bulbs go bad, they will emit ethylene that hurts the bud inside the other healthy bulbs. Also avoid having anything nearby that emits ethylene, such as fruit or some vegetables. Keep an eye on them in the late fall as they might start to show signs of wanting to start to grow.

In some cases you might need to have a propagation bed where you grow the tulip bulbs to blooming size for the following year. I do this if I want more of a cultivar, but usually if a tulip has a tendency to break down into small bulbs every year, then I move on and try another cultivar instead with a better growth pattern for the home garden.

Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Jun 29, 2017 5:05 PM CST
@William, thank you so much! I thought this would be the way, but I'm guessing that sellers don't want you to know this because they want to sell more bulbs! It's a little funny because they do explain this for gladiolus.

How do you know when the skin has matured? The foliage has all died down already, but I don't want to dig them up too soon.

You are correct, we don't have warmth in the early part of the year. January and February are the coldest parts of the year out here with snow still covering everything and temperatures falling to as low as -10 F. I would want to store them over the summer and into only the very beginnings of fall, and then replant them, say around late September or early October.

Do you cover the bulbs with newspaper, or sawdust, or peat, or anything? I can keep mine in my basement where it usually is cool and dry throughout the summer. They won't be near food of any type.

Thank you again so much for this comprehensive answer. It is greatly appreciated. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
AKA Joey.
Sweden
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Hellebores Deer
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Jun 30, 2017 12:09 AM CST
That is absolutely correct, Joanna. The bulb industry would prefer that you buy new bulbs every year...

The outer skin of a tulip bulb will usually be a bit brownish when it is mature. The exact shade will depend on the cultivar, but basically it should look like when you bought the bulb. If it's mostly white then it is too soon. However don't stress too much about this, as usually it's not super critical for most cultivars and when you dig tulip bulbs you will damage some of the outer skin anyway and that is okay as they will develop a new skin over time in storage.

I see now that I was a bit unclear about high temperatures early in the year as what I meant and what I should have written was that they don't like high temperatures in their growth period in spring. A newsletter I received from a bulb grower and vendor mentioned temperatures above 25℃ / 77℉ as having a negative influence on the bulb size, so that might be something to look for.

I have my bulbs in my dry basement over the summer as well so I think that sounds like a great place for your bulbs. There is no need to cover the bulbs with anything. Their outer skin will protect them from drying out too much. Too much moisture on the other hand will hurt them.

I'm very happy if I have been of some assistance in getting you started saving your tulips for next year. Hurray!
Name: Lilli
Copenhagen, Denmark, EU
Irises Roses Bulbs Hellebores Foliage Fan Cottage Gardener
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IrisLilli
Jun 30, 2017 4:10 AM CST
Great question and great answer! I tip my hat to you.

I just wanted to add that I keep my bulbs in nets over the summer to make sure they are well ventilated and because I can hang them on the wall out of reach of rodents as I do not have a basement and store my bulbs in my garden shed. I use the kind of nets, which the bulbs are in when you buy them in bulk, but the kind you get with onions or potatoes here work well too.
You don't know if it will grow until you try!
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Jun 30, 2017 8:01 AM CST
Thank you @William, yes, you certainly are a HUGE help to me with this. It is greatly appreciated.

And thank you also @IrisLilli! I'll update as I go along on this new little adventure.
AKA Joey.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Jun 30, 2017 9:44 AM CST
And now, one last question....what is the best tool for digging up bulbs without harming them? I have a shovel, a small hand shovel, a bulb digger hand shovel thingy (yes, that's the official name Big Grin it's like a narrow hand shovel with graded depth markings) and a four-pronged, large garden fork (not a hand tool).

I don't object to purchasing a new tool if there's one that would be better than any of these. I plan to be doing this each year so it'll be a good investment.
AKA Joey.
Name: Lilli
Copenhagen, Denmark, EU
Irises Roses Bulbs Hellebores Foliage Fan Cottage Gardener
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Seed Starter Winter Sowing Bee Lover Dog Lover Region: Europe
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IrisLilli
Jun 30, 2017 9:55 AM CST
If I know I will be digging up specific bulbs for summer storage (most of my tulips stay in the ground all year) I make sure to plant them in a bulb basket.

Example: http://formplastic.pl/en/wp-co...

You can also make some yourself from fine chicken wire. (Think small gopher baskets!)

Having your bulbs in bulb baskets makes the process of planting and digging them up much, much easier and reduces the risk of damaging the bulbs or leaving any behind.

I use a 'large garden fork' to lift the baskets. Smiling
You don't know if it will grow until you try!
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Jun 30, 2017 10:39 AM CST
IrisLilli said:If I know I will be digging up specific bulbs for summer storage (most of my tulips stay in the ground all year) I make sure to plant them in a bulb basket.

Example: http://formplastic.pl/en/wp-co...

You can also make some yourself from fine chicken wire. (Think small gopher baskets!)

Having your bulbs in bulb baskets makes the process of planting and digging them up much, much easier and reduces the risk of damaging the bulbs or leaving any behind.

I use a 'large garden fork' to lift the baskets. Smiling


What an excellent idea! Definitely worth considering for next season! Thanks!
AKA Joey.
Sweden
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Hellebores Deer
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Jun 30, 2017 1:41 PM CST
For smaller quantities it's definitely worth following Lilli's example of using a bulb basket or similar. Thumbs up I also use pond mesh baskets as I have some extra of those.

For large plantings the baskets become a bit unpractical as you really need a lot of them. Have a look at the third pic in this blog post from Fluwel to see a nifty tool that you can use to remove the soil and reveal the bulbs: https://www.fluwel.com/blog/da...

I don't have such a nice tool with handles and I don't think you can buy these, but this year I experimented a bit simply using a piece of wooden board without handles to scrape of the topsoil and I thought that worked very well. My board has rounded edges as to not hurt the bulbs too much. Really seems to be a time saver, but I still need to experiment a bit more with this. So far I only tried it on crocuses as I had some of those I wanted to move. Might be worth giving a try if you have the bulbs planted roughly at the same depth and your soil isn't too hard.

Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Jul 1, 2017 7:33 AM CST
By way of thanks, I offer you these pictures! I swear I worry more about my little garden children than I do about my real children (they're in their mid 30's and all set).

We had some severe storms yesterday and into the night and I was so afraid that the moisture would turn these bulbs into mush. Yet, was it too early to dig them up? Is it bad to dig them up from wet soil? Was it already too late to dig them up? Would they have enough skin?

When digging, I discovered that I had indeed mixed a lot of sand into the lower layers of soil so as to provide good drainage, and then put a nice layer of fortifier and mulch on the top. I say discovered because I had totally forgotten what I did there last year. It must have been the right thing to do because, well, this picture speaks for itself. Not a professional botanical garden, but not too bad for a first try at tulips, narcissus and hyacinth.

Thumb of 2017-07-01/joannakat/8fbeec

I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even though we had had such strong rains, the soil/sand mix was not soggy. These are the beautiful bulbs I dug up--I WAS surprised to find that they were both deeper and larger than I remember them.


I'll let them dry a bit before gently shaking the dirt off the roots.

Two small bulblets (is there a proper name for them?) broke off as I lifted the larger, mother bulbs from the earth. I thought it would be gentler and safer to lift them from underneath with my hands but the little ones broke off each time. That didn't happen using the hand shovel so I went back to that.



I'll plant them in the fall in the hopes that they'll grow.

And finally, this is one of the two patches left after the digging was done.

Thumb of 2017-07-01/joannakat/ae4d11

I expect that the petunias will fill it in over the coming weeks. Next season, I'll wait to plant annuals until I've dug up the bulbs.

More updates to come not just by way of thanks, but so that others might follow along if they're interested in doing this themselves. Thank You! again everyone!

AKA Joey.
Name: Lilli
Copenhagen, Denmark, EU
Irises Roses Bulbs Hellebores Foliage Fan Cottage Gardener
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Seed Starter Winter Sowing Bee Lover Dog Lover Region: Europe
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IrisLilli
Jul 2, 2017 7:14 AM CST
That is a great image of your beautiful bulb bed! Thumbs up
You don't know if it will grow until you try!
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Jul 2, 2017 7:45 AM CST
Thank You! @IrisLilli!

And another question for you all.

As the bulbs are drying, their little sections are falling apart, leaving me with several smaller bulbs for each one that's doing this. Is this normal, or did I do something wrong? Did I maybe dig them up too soon or too late? And will these smaller bulbs product flowers next season? I really hope so as this is the whole purpose.

Thumb of 2017-07-02/joannakat/ae2849

I notice that several sellers state that their bulbs are nice and large, that bigger bulbs produce more reliably. Thus my concern.

Oh, well, I'm a worrywart when it comes to my garden anyway.... nodding

AKA Joey.
Sweden
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Hellebores Deer
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Jul 3, 2017 4:41 PM CST
It might have been just a little too early too be 100% ideal as the stems were not completely dry and the bulb skin of the new bulbs still looks in part a little light and immature in color. The skin of the old dead bulb surrounding the newer ones is irrelevant.

The bonus for digging at this stage is that it's much easier to find the bulbs, the negative is if this impacts next years flowering negative. I don't think it will, but I just mention the possibility. At this late stage I don't believe tulip bulbs grow that much, so you wouldn't have gotten bigger bulbs from waiting a few days more. It's more about letting the bulb have the time to prepare for the (artificial)summer dry period.

Unfortunately a lot of tulip bulbs break down into many small ones the first year after planting. I believe this to be perfectly natural and this happens more with bigger bulbs than with smaller. Possibly this can also be affected by the treatment the bulbs got before you planted them. Shallow planting also promotes splitting, but I can see that you have planted these deeply, so this is not the issue here. Next year will have a different story and you will then get a better idea how these tulips will behave in your own local conditions.

As for the bulb size required for bloom this differs between cultivars, so I can't say for sure how large this one needs to be. Most tulip bulbs are sold as 12cm+, but certainly all tulips I tried flowers from smaller bulbs than that, although with a bit smaller bloom and shorter stem.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Jul 3, 2017 5:59 PM CST
Thanks so much @William. This is very helpful and very informative. I do believe I'm beginning to understand. Very appreciated. Thumbs up

This fall will see me planting them in a basket of my own making so that I can wait until all the stems come out effortlessly, and won't have to worry about stabbing them with my shovel. When the time comes, I'll be able to dig under the basket to loosen the soil, and then just lift the basket up gently. Live and learn.

Thanks again!
AKA Joey.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
Image
joannakat
Jul 6, 2017 10:48 AM CST
Update! After thinking a lot about what @William wrote about maybe having dug my bulbs up a bit too soon, I decided to try to mimic their native environment until later, when they drop the rest of their leaves. I've done this by covering the bottom of a box with rich soil, about three inches deep, laying the bulbs on top of that trying not to crowd them (i.e., in a single layer), and then covering them with about three or four inches of the same, rich soil. During the day, they are out in the sun where the soil becomes very warm and is drying out nicely, and at night, I bring them in so that they are not subject to lower temperatures. Night temps are around 60 to 65 F outside, and around 70 F inside.

Thumb of 2017-07-06/joannakat/94eec9

The reason I decided to try this is discussed in the article I linked to earlier where it says that tulips are actually perennials in their native Turkey where they over-summer in very hot, dry climates. I think one of the reasons most types don't make it through summers is too much moisture during their dormant season which causes them to decompose.

I'm thinking that I'll take these in when the days become more humid (which they usually do in both August and September), and store them in a more conventional manner in my dry basement.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this--has anyone tried this before? I'd especially like to hear if anyone has tried this method and failed (in other words, SAVE ME!!!) Big Grin

AKA Joey.
Sweden
Bulbs Lilies Bee Lover Irises Hellebores Deer
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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William
Jul 6, 2017 12:39 PM CST
I have never placed bulbs in wet rich soil for summer storage as I think it's better with dry soil, but I do routinely place bulbs that want to be dry, but not dehydrated into dry sand over summer. Smiling However usually this isn't necessary for tulips as they have a nice thick skin that protects them.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
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joannakat
Jul 6, 2017 1:12 PM CST
William said:I have never placed bulbs in wet rich soil for summer storage as I think it's better with dry soil, but I do routinely place bulbs that want to be dry, but not dehydrated into dry sand over summer. Smiling However usually this isn't necessary for tulips as they have a nice thick skin that protects them.


The soil I used is barely moist. I was concerned because they hadn't really developed their skins yet and, as you so kindly pointed out, it looks like I dug them up a bit too early.

I'll update as thing progress--hopefully, it won't be to tell you that they have rotted! Blinking
AKA Joey.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
Image
joannakat
Jul 22, 2017 4:50 PM CST
Update and a question:

I'm putting my bulbs into storage (pictures soonest)! But I've noticed over the last few weeks that the humidity level is higher than I anticipated, even in my cooler little basement. I usually use a dehumidifier and A/C but this year, I'm on a much tighter budget so I'm avoiding it whenever possible. It's an average of around 75 F down there, and most of the time, dark or darkish.

Because of the higher humidity levels (sometimes as high as 75%, ugh!), I'd like to do something to keep these bulbs dry. I've got them nicely packed in shredded newspaper, but I'm thinking of putting some calcium chloride packs in with them. They wouldn't be touching them, but maybe underneath? I have them on a raised nursery thing that enables air to flow. If not under, then maybe on the sides?

Like I said, pictures to follow shortly, but I wanted to ask you all about the calcium chloride first. I just don't know if it would be harmful to the bulbs. This is the product: http://www.damprid.com/

And here's the explanation of how it works:
http://www.damprid.com/moistur...
AKA Joey.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Vermiculture
Image
joannakat
Jul 23, 2017 10:17 PM CST
Here are the promised pictures. I gently brushed the dirt off each bulb using a pastry brush. I love the way the skins look. I suppose that their time in the box of dry dirt that I placed out in the sun might have helped them to develop their beautiful skins, but I'm not sure that they grew any larger.

Thumb of 2017-07-24/joannakat/3fac15 Thumb of 2017-07-24/joannakat/81985c


A couple didn't look so healthy so I threw them out.
Thumb of 2017-07-24/joannakat/78d8aa Thumb of 2017-07-24/joannakat/2dfeb9

I kept this one to see if that spot will turn into something bad, but I'm storing it separately from the main group.
Thumb of 2017-07-24/joannakat/d7a617

This is how I bagged them for storage--single layer:
Thumb of 2017-07-24/joannakat/21d5af

And this is how I packed them for storage--they're on an open, raised plastic thingie with shredded newspaper underneath and above. I placed this in my basement. I'd really like to put one or two of those damprid things in the box with them but I'm waiting to hear what you all think before doing that. I would hate to have these beautiful bulbs damaged by doing something stupid! Thumbs down
Thumb of 2017-07-24/joannakat/fffd44

Still very open to advice if I'm doing something wrong or bad. So please, advise away! Thumbs up
AKA Joey.

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