Having grown up in western Washington, where the largest bulb growers in the US have their fields, and spending my youth in the ‘Daffodil Valley’ where I attended school with tulip and daffodil farmers’ kids–and our town celebrated an annual Daffodil Parade with daff-covered floats and yellow-gowned princesses–I might be excused for having a penchant for bulb flowers, Tulipomania of my own sort. With a climate fairly similar to their old home’s in the Netherlands, it’s no surprise that the van Lierops and others of my classmates’ ancestors found the rich volcanic soil and temperate weather of the Pacific Northwest very welcoming as an environment for restarting their bulb-growing life stateside. The Skagit Valley, set in between where I spent the majority of my growing-up and the place where I did my grad-school growing, is one of the most fertile and spectacular places to go tulip-viewing in peak season outside of the fabled Keukenhof gardens.
All the more reason that it shouldn’t shock you that I have a teeny little meltdown of adoration when the Valentine’s Day displays of tulips appear in all of the shops. Here in Texas, however, and particularly with what I’m learning is typically a pair of widely separated and very short viable growing seasons, and only with a lot of attentive care, I’m skeptical that a large investment in tulip bulbs would be the smartest way to spend my gardening money. I think I shall devote more of my time, dollars and attentions to water control systems and hardy prairie and semi-desert plants hereabouts. But I’ll never stop enjoying tulips when and where I can. Knowing my eternally optimistic streak, I won’t say absolutely that there won’t be tulips in this transplanted Texan’s garden anyway.As you can see from today’s set of pen and ink drawings, it’s not only the brilliant colors and satiny textures of tulips that appeal to me, but also their form, and the graceful graphic beauty they lend to their environs. The first drawing above was made for the cover of the service programs for my sister’s wedding, when she very thoughtfully married a man whose parents ran a wonderful florist shop and supplied their Spring nuptials with a gorgeous rainbow of bright pastel tulips that burst with brilliance for the occasion and for many long days after. Thankfully, there was and is ever so much more to her man-of-choice and his family, but the tulips sure didn’t hurt! The second image came from a set of sketches drawn for a series of greeting cards meant to raise funds for a church group, and since I knew that the cards were very often sent as get-well wishes, condolences, congratulatory notes and other quite personal greetings, it seemed to me that there were few images that could supply the right note of kindness, cheer and gracious care than a bunch of tulips.
All of this is a rather roundabout way of saying that, though I did not (as yet) plant tulip bulbs, that vision in yesterday’s errand-running expedition all over town of all the shops being inundated with the life and joy of tulips got me salivating for garden goodness, so I wandered out to our back-forty (.04?) and, basking in another round of wildly inappropriate-for-February warmth, planted a bunch of seeds. What will become of them, I cannot tell, but I’ll keep y’all posted. Meanwhile, I am happy at just having stuck my fingers in the dirt with some positive purpose for a little bit and planted my little measure of hope.I’ve a fondness for so many growing and blooming things, but no particular mastery of helping them along that path, so I will fumble along with what I can. In the next few days I’ll tackle the spring grooming of some of the other parts of the garden, including the bed of irises I transplanted when I found them last year under the paving stones so nicely placed by our house’s previous owner and was astonished to see that they had refused to die there. Whether they can thrive enough to bloom after however long they were interred, I have yet to see, but they are already leafing out in their new digs happily, and if they don’t drown in one of our brief outbursts of heavy-duty rain before I can redirect the brunt of it off of them, they will at least provide their small oasis of green glory to the garden until the Texas sun beats them back into the hard clay ground they wrestled so innocently to escape. Not to mention that my lack of Master Gardener status means lots of things must fend for themselves bravely. That’s just the way things go here: plants must be as tough as they are attractive to get the green-thumbs-up from Mother Nature de Tejas. Or me.