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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.

Read the next Article: Rembrandt Tulips

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • Order spring bulbs now for the best selection. They will arrive at the correct planting time for your hardiness zone.
    If you have indeterminate type tomato plants that continue to grow until killed by a frost, cut off the tops of their main stems now to prevent them from flowering and setting any more new fruit. It will seldom ripen before a frost occurs and the energy is better invested in the green fruit already on the vines.
    Now is a good time to plant or transplant evergreens. Water them faithfully and mulch well to get them off to a good start. Do not fertilize until next year.
    Now is also a good time to order and plant pansies. They will bloom this fall, but will really put on a show next spring.