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Traffic Stopping Tulips

Spring is no time to be shy. Go ahead and plant traffic-stopping tulips.

If you’re trying to attract attention, tulips do it with ease: their bright colors are irresistible. Big, single-color flowers like the scarlet ‘Ad Rem’ make a bold statement, and two-tone blooms and colorful combinations will turn heads even at 45 mph.

Yellow is actually the most attention-grabbing color in a garden, says Jimmy Turner, director of horticulture research at the Dallas Arboretum. Turner is an adept gardener who appreciates subtleties but loves the excitement of hot colors and Texas-sized displays of blooms. Pastel colors are pretty, of course, but if you’re trying to make a splash, go with a bold palette. “If you plant pale lavender, people won’t notice,” Turner says. Yellow, orange, red, and flashy striped tulips make a huge impression blooming in great sweeps of color in flower beds, in front of evergreen foundation plantings, or along a front walk.

Fortunately, the wide world of tulips — there are thousands of varieties — includes a great number of very bright colors. A planting of several varieties will give you a show that lasts for weeks.

‘Hamilton’ is one of the brightest yellow tulips, but there are many choices: ‘Holland Emotions’ displays its rich yellow blooms on stems up to 22 inches tall. ‘Fire Wings’ is a tall red tulip with yellow-tipped petals; ‘Mickey Mouse’ is as captivating as its namesake: its red and yellow flowers are only about 14 inches tall, but they are extraordinarily impressive, especially planted by the dozens.

Fancy ‘Peach Melba’ is a double-early tulip with a colorful two-tone punch; its peachy-pink outer petals surround apricot inner petals. ‘World Peace’ is a sturdy Darwin tulip with magenta blooms, edged in golden yellow.

Don’t hold back when you’re going for a big effect: plant five tulip bulbs per square foot. If the bed along your front walk is 20 feet long and 2 feet wide, that’s 40 square feet, which comes to 200 tulips — or 400, if you’re planting on both sides of the walk. And when they bloom, they’ll knock everybody’s socks off.

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • If the best looking melons in the garden had little or no flavor last summer, the problem may be the variety planted. Some melon types do better in a region than others and only trial and error or an experienced local gardener or county extension agent can guide you.

    Occasionally the problem is the soil. It may lack sufficient nutrients or the pH can be too low. Dig in compost or rotted manure before planting. Melons do best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Have your soil tested and if the pH is below 6.5, amend with lime. Sometimes a lot of rain near the time of harvest will dilute the sugar in melons affecting taste. Watermelons will regain their sugars if you hold off harvesting for a few days. Cantaloupes will not.