Gray Day. The rain has been falling steadily for the last couple of days, obliterating my sunny mood, pouring water over any weekend plans, and reminding me of the cold winter days I thought I had left behind.
But the rain is good for my tulips. I can already see the shoots springing up from the grass; the leaves are slowly turning from velvety brown to green. I wonder when they will put out their buds, I can’t wait to see the flowers.
Last month, I visited the famous Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. The gardens are beautiful with millions of lovely flowers – hyacinths and dandelions, irises and orchids. But of course, one goes there for the tulips. The 4.5 million tulips they have – in orange, pink and violet, two-toned, with serrated edges, saucer-sized, every combination you can think of. If you are a flower lover, this is one place you should definitely visit.
On the other hand, if you are not an avid flower lover, you should probably think twice about going. There is a lot of walking involved – it’s a large garden spanning 32 hectares. It is not really a picnic spot because the lawns are all off-limits, and there’s not much else you can do apart from looking at flowers. You can pet the resident donkey if you like, but that seems to be all in terms of entertainment.
I would think I am an avid flower lover, but after a few hours in the gardens, I was perfectly happy to not see another tulip for a long time.
But I can’t wait for my own tulips to grow – one reason being that this is the first time I am watching a plant grow from seed. At least in this country, since I usually buy plants in pots and then transplant them onto the soil. Isn’t that the ultimate test of one’s green thumb – getting a seed, or a cutting, to grow into a full scale plant and watch it flower?
This is also a novel method of planting – you do not water the plant. All I did last August was dig a few holes along the driveway and around the maple trees, shallow holes that were just a few inches deep. I stuck the bulbs in and covered them up. Then, I proceeded to forget all about them. I did not water the bulbs, either then or later. This suits my style of lazy gardening, I told myself.
Fall came and the maples turned red and gold, and finally bare. Winter came, and with it the first snows. The snow carpeted the driveway and was shoveled off regularly, resulting in tall piles on the sides, over the tulips. At one point, the tulips along the driveway were buried under three feet of snow.
Now it’s spring, and the snows have melted away. The grass is green again, though the trees are still bare. Only the crabapple still had its red berries that tenaciously clung to it through fall and winter.
I had “naturalized” my tulips – instead of planting them in separate flower beds of their own, I had planted them in clumps on the grass, around the trees and between other flowers. This is a good idea because the tulips are not going to flower for too long. Once spring is over, they will stop flowering, and slowly even the leaves will drop off.
But all that is some time away. Right now, they have put out their first shoots and their first few leaves. I know my flowers will be quite sedate by Keukenhof standards – they will not have serrated edges, and though some of them may be two-toned, they are not in exotic shades. But for some reason, I think I will like them more than the ones in Keukenhof.
But much as I love my tulips, it’s a somewhat lazy love. The snow melted away some weeks ago. As I watched the warm sun beat down on the tender shoots, I idly wondered whether they needed watering. But, continuing my unique style of gardening, I did not seriously consider taking a sprinkler to the plants.
This rain is the first water the tulips are getting, apart from the melted snow that watered them last month. For that reason alone, I think I will welcome the showers.
Sometime next week, the in-ground sprinklers will get turned on, and the tulips will start to get watered. I can continue my style of lazy gardening. Meanwhile, I will spend this weekend inspecting each flower bed. Over the next few weeks, I will watch for the magical first flower to appear, the indisputable proof of my green thumb, a triumph of my gardening efforts at turning a seed into a flower.
Did I say gardening efforts?