Spring-blooming flowers and shrubs are showing their glorious colors, and tulips are at the top of my list of bold and beautiful plants this time of year.
Besides the vivid colors held high above gray-green foliage, tulips are a bit nostalgic for me. When I was very young, my mother let me dig the bulbs from her tulip beds to divide and re-plant. I believe this tulip dividing experience started my love of gardening.
To best enjoy the vivid hues of spring, I took a stroll on Kansas University's campus. Starting at Smith Hall (just south of the Docking Family Gateway) is an expanse of tulip blooms - yellow, with the bottoms of the petals tinged in red. These tulips are suitably named Olympic Flame.
Farther south, I turn onto Lilac Lane to see bands of yellow and red at the chancellor's residence. The hot mix of tulip colors weaves through the landscape in stark contrast to the pinkish-purple shades of the lilacs and redbuds.
I head back to Jayhawk Boulevard to find more tulips in front of Watson Library: This time the blooms are a mix of red and white, with a backdrop of shrub roses that will flaunt their own colors in another month or so. More redbuds stand behind the tulips and roses.
The flower bed in front of Strong Hall features a mix of Apeldoorn (red flowers) and Golden Apeldoorn (yellow flowers), while Budig Hall has only Apeldoorn. The mix of red and yellow tulips are neatly twined around a perfectly trimmed hedge, while the solid red blossoms in front of Budig wave freely from their flowerbed.
Passing through the roundabout at the Chi Omega Fountain, I stop to admire another display of red Apeldoorn tulips waving in the wind. My last stop was Eaton Hall, on 15th Street just west of Naismith Drive to see another mix of red and white blooms.
If you have heard about tulips being re-planted each year, understand that the hybrid tulip varieties that are most commonly available now are bred for large, colorful blooms rather than longevity. In irrigated beds and/or poorly drained soil, even older tulip varieties will rot or lose vigor in just a few seasons. Digging the bulbs for division is a chore of the past, but I actually think planting new ones is easier if you can find the time on your to-do list.
In my own garden, the daffodils have faded and the few Pink Impression tulips I planted last fall are just opening. I am putting a note on my calendar for October to add more tulips to my garden to enjoy next spring.
-Jennifer Smith is the Horticulture Extension Agent for K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. Contact her or an Extension Master Gardener with your gardening questions at 843-7058.