Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Tulip Explosion

About 5 years ago I created a "figure 8" shaped garden in the front yard around a young maple tree that had just been planted.  Inside the flowerbed I planted 2 packages of tulips - 16 red and 16 white.  In April the tulips open, the red tulips first and the white ones about a week later.

Pee-Wee in front of the tulip bed - Spring 2006
This is an event we look forward to each year.  It is probably the most anticipated moment in our garden.

Pee-Wee in the tulip bed - Spring 2006
When I first planted the tulips I set them out geometrically.  I alternated between red and white, making 2 concentric circles in each half of the corner garden.  The outer circle of the larger half of the "figure 8" was planted with 7 whites and 7 reds.  The inner circle was planted with 3 of each.  In the smaller half of the "figure 8" I planted 4 of each in the outer circle and 2 of each in the inner circle.  Is my math correct?  That should be 16 of each color for the first year.

Our tulip bed in bloom - Spring 2009
We used red and white tulips because we live in Norman, Oklahoma, home of the the University of Oklahoma Sooners.  [See the OU flag in the picture above?]

Partial bird's eye view of the tulip bed - Spring 2009
From the street, you don't really see a geometrical design, you just see a sea of red and white tulips.   But from above, you can see the pattern pretty well.  Each year they multiply and multiply.

And yet more tulip pictures - Spring 2009
This year, I counted as many as 21 blooms in one location!  In a perfect world, each tulip bulb would double each year.  This would mean that in year two a single tulip bulb would have multiplied to 2, in year three to 4, in year four to 8, in year five to 16, and in year six to 32.  If I'm doing the math correctly, either my tulip bulbs have produced more than one offset each year (which is possible) or I planted them more than 5 years ago.  But I think my memory is correct on how long ago they were planted.

The prolific white tulip.  See if you can count all 21 buds. They're all there!
Of course, the 21 blooms was the most I counted at any one location.  Other locations had as few as 6 or 8.  Last year we dug up some of the offsets at locations where there were many more than other locations and relocated some of the bulbs to fill in the bed a little bit.  We will probably want to do the same thing again this year, once the plants have tied back to the ground surface.

Light snow fell on the red tulip buds a couple of weeks ago, while the white tulip buds were still developing.

I was worried this year that the tulips would not all bloom because of the snow we got a couple of weeks ago after the buds were already exposed, but they weren't affected much by the quick cold snap.

Open red tulip bud
But, as you can see, they turned out okay.  The first two pictures from this post are from 2 seasons ago simply because I didn't get a good picture of the tulip bed when both white and red tulips looked their best this year.

Single white tulip seeking long, cool blooming season (also, long walks on the beach, of course).


  1. It is gorgeous and makes me want to start a big chorus of "Boomer Sooner!"

  2. Ahhh...spring! beautiful tulips!

  3. Dog and beautiful Tulips - Irresistible.

  4. Zach, your tulips are so pretty and I really like your figure eight bed.

  5. Your bed of tulips is fantastic Zach! I've never had much luck with them here so I envy how yours have multiplied happily over the years. :)

  6. Dear Zach,

    I'm helping one of the Art Buyers here at Ogilvy, London. I'm looking for an existing shot of a tulip, looking straight on at it, tulip head open but not too full, and complete with full stem and leaves. Ideally white in colour but it doesn't matter because we could colour correct.
    If you do have anything please email low res images.
    Needless to say - very urgent.
    With thanks
    Denise Elder
    Art Buyer
    + 44 207 345 3341