This spring, I spent a lot of time observing and waiting. Such is the life of the gardener. But I was anxious to see how long the species tulips planted last fall would survive in my garden before their beheading. I have a rabbit issue. Which means I have a tulip issue too. Despite several attempts, I simply can’t grow them. Ever. Or so I thought. The most success I’ve had was with two small patches of Darwin tulips planted years apart. The first, a red variety, was beautiful and ignored by everything except me. The sin bin, also known as the dark space beneath my neighbor’s deck, wasn’t part of the equation yet so I didn’t have a rabbit “issue.” But then another neighbor set his domesticated rabbit free after tiring of it. It was a Christmas gift they gave to their children and by April, it was sitting in my tulip patch and beheading every last stem.
Several years later, I tried an orangey pink variety called Apricot Impression and underplanted it with grape hyacinth. They flowered in unison and were looking quite lovely for about a day or two before falling victim. Honestly, I can’t believe they actually made it to the open flower stage. By then, the rabbit brothel was in full swing. The hyacinths were untouched but every tulip stem had the tell-tale angled slice through the stem – the rabbit’s calling card. It’s like the mark of Zorro, only far more maddening and certainly not entertaining.
Every fall since, I’ve stuck to the tried, true and rabbit resistant. Daffodils, alliums and leucojums are among the many spring-flowering bulbs the rabbits never touch and I’ve planted them everywhere. Last year, I recalled a rumor I’d heard years ago that species tulips were the way to go in a rabbit-challenged garden. Three to five rabbits in a garden at any given time certainly qualifies me. So I planted up two varieties, Lilac Wonder and Tarda, in different areas and waited.
By March, little green points were breaking through the soil and each day, a little more showed. When the buds finally appeared, I was certain the end was near. How much longer could these little tulips slip under the rabbit radar? Until one day, like magic, they opened and remained in flower for weeks. A cold spring prolonged the bloom period and I was glad for it. It gave me time to admire a happy little flower that had been out of my reach. For weeks, my garden was full of pink and yellow species tulips. I was tickled.
If you’re looking for frills and double petals, you won’t find it with the species tulips. They’re beautiful, simple and, despite their delicate-looking appearance, incredibly tough. I like those qualities. They suit my gardening style and I’m just so happy to be able to grow them…finally.
Can I expect a repeat next year? I certainly hope so. Was it a fluke? Beginners luck? Perhaps. I’ll remain cautiously optimistic that they’ll like it here, naturalize and remain unnoticed by the little critters that challenge my patience.
Adding to the Species Tulip Collection
As is often the case when you find something you love to grow, you want more of it! Bolstered by my success, I’m inspired to add to my little collection of species tulips. The garden will be getting a few more varieties this fall. Colorblends was so kind to send me the Tarda and Lilac Wonder varieties last year. They’ll soon be joined by…
If you’d like to see Tarda and Lilac Wonder species tulips in action, check out my most recent YouTube video…