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TIPS ON TULIPS

written by Marianne C. Ophardt WSU Extension Faculty for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA For all of you that scorn the artificial ‘holidays,’ such as Valentine’s Day, consider that they’re a way to bring some flowers indoors during this last part of winter. Whatever the weather, winter always seems too long and cut flowers at this time of year are just the thing to cheer us. Although, I must admit that the cost of cut roses for one’s sweetie has climbed to excessive and prohibitive levels. Thankfully, there are usually pretty cut and potted tulips available that are a bit easier on the wallet and just as welcome. The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in New York City would like you to buy more of these spring bulbs, but they note that they require some special care. Here are some tips they offer on buying and using cut tulips. Selection: Look for closed flowers showing color at the top, but still green at the base. Closed tulip buds will open up in the first few days in the vase. They can last a good week or more, with the right care. Don’t buy bunches of tulips with buds too tightly closed or fully wide open. Totally green ones may have been cut too early and will probably not fully open. Tulips with buds fully wide open will have a shorter vase life. Preparing: Before placing tulips in a vase or arrangement, take a sharp knife and re-trim the stem ends, cutting at a slight angle. Stems act as water uptake channels, and cutting allows the tulips to drink in fresh water more freely and last longer. Water: It also helps to keep them supplied with cool clear fresh water. The Netherlands Flower Bulb experts suggest giving them just enough water in the vase, no more than the flowers might drink in one day or two. Fill vases approximately 1/3 full, providing the flowers plenty to drink but no more. Each day, top off the vase with fresh cool water. Extra water in the container allows bacteria to grow and shortens the life of the flowers. There is no need to add anything to the water… clean fresh water every day is all that’s needed. The Tulip’s Peculiarity: I bet you didn’t know that unlike most cut flowers, tulips keep growing after they’re cut and put in a vase. As they grow taller, possibly as much as an inch, they’ll tend to bend toward sources of light. That’s why tulip arrangements seem to dip, dive or droop over the edge of the vase. If you prefer only straight stems, you can re-straighten them by removing the flowers from the vase, re-trimming the stem tips, then rolling the tulips in newspaper with the paper extending above the flower tops but not covering the lower third of the stems. Next place the wrapped bunch upright in a container holding cool water deep enough to submerge the exposed stems. Leave them in a cool place for an hour or two… before you know it your tulips will once again be straight and tall. (That’s amazing, but I sort of like them with curved stems bending over the edge of the vase.) Keep Tulips Longer: You can keep tulips and other cut flowers fresh longer by placing them in cooler locations. Don’t place them next to or on top of heat sources, such as furnace vents, televisions, and computers. Arrangements with Tulips: As a harbinger of spring, tulips are well suited to mixed flower arrangements. Try mixing them with forsythia, pussy willows, or corkscrew willow. If you want to mix tulips with daffodils, you need to treat the daffodils before combining them. Just as with the tulips, trim the daffodil stems and then place them in a separate container of water for a few hours before adding them to your tulip arrangement. This step is needed because a slimy alkaloid sap is released from the daffodil stem when it’s cut. This substance is detrimental to other flowers and can shorten their vase life. Placing the daffodils in a separate vase for a while allows this substance to leach out into the water. After several hours, they can be safely combined with other flowers. If you do everything right, quality tulips will last for a week or more indoors, but you can have flowers and color much longer if you purchase potted tulips or other spring flowering bulbs, such as daffodils or hyacinths. The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center offers these suggestions for selecting and caring for potted bulbs. Selection and Appearance: Look for potted bulbs with tight green buds showing just a hint of color… they’ll provide you with enjoyment as they grow and bloom. The pot from the store may be attractive or it might be a bit boring. Depending on your preferences and decorating style, you may want to double-pot your purchase by placing it into a more decorative container. To double-pot, just slip the nursery pot into another slightly larger, but prettier pot. (Remove any decorative foil or plastic from around the pot first.) The new outer pot can be a ‘cachepot’ with no drainage hole or one with a drainage hole and saucer. Care: If possible place the pot where it will receive bright indirect light. If placed too far away from light, the flower stems will stretch and twist towards the light. If kept cool, away from heat sources, the flowers will develop more slowly and last longer. Water just enough to keep the potting soil moist but not soggy. Remove any excess water that drains off after watering so the bottoms of the pots don’t sit in water. Cut or potted, tulips are a great way to brighten someone’s day. Treat a friend, a sweety, or yourself to tulips today and Think Spring! It’s not far away.

Published: 2/25/2006 11:24 AM

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