These two beautiful ladies need no introduction, as their spectacular visage graces gardens worldwide. The tulip and dutch iris derive from the Iridaceae family, and although they differ in appearance, they are both prized for their stunning blooms which make exceptional cut flowers. Both the tulip and dutch iris produce a long, solid stem and will generally flower with six petals. The tulip’s petals form a rounded, regal goblet whereas the dutch iris has three central petals that grow upwards (called standards) and three larger outer petals that hang down (called falls). Irises come in many forms but can be divided into two broad groups, those from rhizomes and those with true bulbs as storage organs. The spectacular dutch iris is a true bulb and shares this characteristic with the tulip.
There are 100 species of tulip, which are mostly from south-west Asia, but some varieties originate from temperate regions of Europe, north-Africa and Asia-minor. Tulips can be classed in 15 distinct groups, but only a few of these will flourish in our southern hemisphere climate and the most common is the Darwin hybrids. The colours of the Darwin hybrids range from red, orange, pink and yellow, often striped or flamed. The dutch iris is also a hybrid, derived from cross-breeding a variety found in Spain, Portugal, Europe and north-Africa with a variety from north-western Africa. It flowers in a colour range of white, yellow, light and dark blue.
Both these beautiful bulbs are used to best effect when planted in groups and as accent plants between small shrubs and within borders. Tulips and dutch iris make stunning companion plants, and also look lovely with daffodils. You may also wish to consider using hyacinths and muscari as a striking border around a cluster of tulips. Both tulips and dutch iris will make an elegant display in pots. When they are planted in containers the bulbs can be placed close together for a more spectacular display, but in a border they should be 7cm apart with 5cm of soil covering them. We do recommend using treated tulip bulbs when planting in pots as they will flower much earlier and produce larger flowers with taller stems. Remember to plant treated tulips straight away.
Your tulips should be planted in May and your dutch iris bulbs from mid-April to May. Expect to see tulips flowering in September and your dutch iris from September to October. Both tulips and dutch iris need well-loosened soil, and compost should be incorporated to make the soil light, friable and well-drained. Waterlogging from planting time until flowering should be avoided, as should overheating. A good mulch will help retain moisture to keep the soil cool, and by planting the bulbs by a wall or under low hanging branches will also assist in creating suitable soil conditions. Direct sunlight and heat will hamper the growth of both these lovely bulbs, so pick a nice position with constant dappled shade.
As with all your bulbs, don't forget the Three F's: Water your bulbs for Forty minutes, with a sprinkler, every Four days and don’t Forget.