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Portland Tribune Tulips

Anne Jaeger


Keeping Cut Tulips Fresh

Perhaps it’s a curse. Every time I see a tulip the irritating falsetto voice of the late Tiny Tim plays “Tip Toe through the Tulips” like a warped 8 track tape in my head.  (Do you remember him and Miss Vicky on Laugh In and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in the 70’s?)  There are some things we would rather forget and I think Tiny Tim is one of them, but since tulips are in peak bloom right now and on sale at every corner florist I got to thinking that it’s high time we erased those old tapes and explore some tulip facts and fiction.  First, let’s talk about what do to once you buy tulips for home or office.  I’ve been told that some of you have some rather unusual methods to keep the tulips fresh longer in a vase.  And according to the folks at Wooden Shoe Bulb Company in Woodburn there are a couple of home remedies that really should be shared with a bunch of friends instead of a bunch of tulips.   If you are adding gin, vodka or pennies to the tulip water;  STOP.  This is a waste of good alcohol and the reason why you don’t see bartenders using tulips as swizzle sticks.  My advice? Have a cocktail party with the liquor and just top the vase off with fresh cold water every day or two. Remove the leaves below the water line and keep the flowers out of direct sunlight. Then put the penny in your pocket or throw it in the street like everyone else does.  Now, once the tulips are in the vase, it’s a proven fact that tulips keep growing 6 inches or more.  No lie. And did you know tulips are geotropic and phototropic? Now that is a fun fact you can drop into your cocktail party chit chat.  In short, their growth is determined by gravity and light. So that’s why the blooms always crane their necks toward the light.  On second thought, maybe your party friends would be more impressed by this instead;  legend has it that red tulips are a declaration of love, yellow means hopeless love, variegated flowers mean you have beautiful eyes and tulips with a black center symbolize a heart burnt by love. So my friends, you know where you stand based on which color you get. Let me add here, if someone sends you tulip stems with no flowers at all this means you are in the dog house, big time.   This treatment could also spell disaster for tulips growing in your yard.   People often ask me what to do with tulips once they bloom.  This is easy,  just break off the seed pod when the flower falls off but DON’T remove any leaves until they turn yellow.  The leaves are actually making food for the bulb to bloom next year.  So you can be lazy.    Besides as you can see, there’s already so much to do in the garden this month you don’t need more jobs!