Yes, I know it sounds like another of Eddie Hobbs "Rip-off Republic" predictions; however, such an event happened around 1634 in Holland. This phenomenon was known as "Tulip mania" where Tulip bulbs had become so prized that certain single bulbs were worth the same as a canal-side house in Amsterdam. Speculators had wildly risked vast sums of money in trading such quantities of tulip bulbs. Economic bubbles are prone to bursting; the "Tulip mania" bubble was no different. There was a tulip stock-market crash where many investors were left bankrupt and homeless. Eventually the government had to step in to regulate the tulip trade and settle the over inflated bulb prices. Even though tulips brought about an economic crash in Holland, they are still to this day a major export of that country.
Today, we gardeners employ tulips less as currency, and more as an ideal continuation to the spring colour produced by the earlier snowdrops and daffodils.
If you would like to gain some of this extended colour, you should plant tulip bulbs over the next month. A visit to your local garden centre will no doubt spin your head with the numerous early and late flowering varieties available, these can then be sub-divided into the various flower forms such as single, double, lily, streaked and frilled. Whatever variety takes your fancy you must take into account that they require a location sheltered from winds to retain their flower petals for a long period. If your garden falls prey to strong winds and you simply must plant some tulip bulbs then I suggest you seek out some of the modern shorter varieties that are now available, such as Tulipa pulchella "'Persian Pearl" which only grows to around 15cm in height. Often even planting next to existing shrubs can offer blooming tulips that vital extra shelter they require from damaging winds.
As well as being sheltered, an ideal location for tulips would be sunny with open free draining soil.
Heavy, sticky soil will retain a lot of water eventually leading to rotting of the bulb, if you have soil such as this the addition of grit to the soil will aid with drainage. Your selected bulbs should be firm to the touch and free of any sign of mould, once you've found such bulbs try to plant them as soon as possible. Most tulip bulbs are planted at a depth of 6 inches (15cm) and spaced at 6-inch intervals, spent flowerers are removed to prevent seed setting and foliage should always be allowed to die down naturally.
One final fact, with tulips being so tightly linked with Holland, it would be easy to believe that this is where the flowering tulip bulb originated. However, the bulbs actually originated in Asia, were cultivated since the 13th century in Iran and were eventually introduced to Europe in 1554.
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