Fancy French Tulips

What's the story behind French Tulips? Well, French tulips are in the group Single Late Tulips (SLT) but most SLTs are not considered French.

french tulips

Most French Tulips are mutations of the Single Late variety named Mrs. John T. Scheepers. This is the big, bright, yellow tulip which many growers refer to as “The Mother of all Tulips.” It has been cultivated for centuries and this exact variety was officially introduced in 1930. It is named after Rose Dorothy Heywood, who was the wife of John Theodore Scheepers. Mr. Scheepers founded the firm of John Scheepers, Inc., which revolutionized the bulb industry in America. He is renowned for the creation of mass plantings for gardens and making the tulip the central spring motif. For this achievement in popularizing the Tulip, he became known as the "Tulip King". His horticultural introductions, which included prized tulips, lilies and dahlias, made him an outstanding figure in the field of horticulture. Mr. Scheepers passed way in 1938, and he left an amazing legacy which we still feel today.

These tulips were originally grown and picked in the south of France, in the Cote d’Azur region. This led to the name French Tulips, when they started being exported.

french tulip bunch.jpg

The term “Single Late Tulip” comes from the fact that this variety blooms after all other varieties of tulip. The single late tulip class (class 5) incorporates Darwin Tulips, old Breeder Tulips, Cottage Tulips and Scheeper Hybrid Tulips. The borderline between these former classes, due to hybridization and mutation, is no longer as obvious as in the past. Blooms are large, shapely and available in an immense range of colors, perched on long, strong stems.

long french tulips

The challenge for the flower grower lies in the conditions needed for optimal results. French Tulips can’t be pushed, they are a very stubborn variety. Standard tulips are a lot more accommodating in their growth patterns--a grower can turn up the heat in a greenhouse to bring them to harvest sooner, andcan also adjust light levels to dictate height.

french tulips growing

French Tulips will not stand for this!  They will not tolerate the big glass greenhouses, they prefer to be in a hoop house, much more exposed to Mother Nature’s whim than a normal tulip. Once in the hoop house a grower has little control over the growing process.

The wonderful thing about this process is that it leads to stunning tulips, bursting with personality. The stems are big and strong, the blooms are large and egg shaped. The foliage is a rich green color which sets off the bright flower.

frenchies

 

 

What are Parrot Tulips?

Parrot tulips (Tulipa gesnerana dracontia) are like regular tulips, but boast bold, serrated petal edges which give them a ruffled appearance.  This ruffled look along with their brilliant, variegated colors, and their beak-shaped buds resemble their showy, tropical namesake, the parrot.

parrot tulips

The most often asked question about these attention-grabbing tulips is “How do they do that?” How do the petals gain the fringe, the curly edges, and the wavy texture that makes them so unique?

Apricot Parrot

Apricot Parrot

The very first parrot tulips were accidental mutants of various classic tulip varieties, which made their first documented appearance during the 17th century in France. Due to their weak stems, they did not catch on as popular cut flowers until a couple centuries later.

Roccoco Parrot

Roccoco Parrot

 In the early 1900s, breeders were able to reproduce the desired genetic abnormalities of fringed, curly petals AND strong stems, which led to a parrot tulip renaissance.  Now there are several varieties, each with their own unique coloration and performance.  They look amazing on their own, and their extravagant shape makes them excellent focal pieces in mixed bouquets.

parrot tulip mixed bouquets

Parrot tulip bouquet design and tutorial by Dress This Nest.

parrot tulip bouquet




Fragrant Freesia

Is there any flower as whimsical, playful, and beautiful as freesia?

Purple Freesia.jpg

Their attributes begin with their sequential blooms; they keep opening over time, so each stem has an enormous kinetic energy. Then add their wonderful ambrosia-like scent.  Not only that, the color also determines the smell, so there is a lovely fragrance variety in a bouquet of mixed freesias--some are peppery and sharp, others citrusy and tart.

freesia colors

Another nice aspect of freesia is the stem length.  They can grow to be quite tall, which gives designers a lot of options for dramatic arrangements, and, of course, they can be cut down shorter for corsages and bouquet work.  The elegance of the tall stems are really something to experience.

This mixed bouquet is an excellent example of freesia's versatile stem lengths.

This mixed bouquet is an excellent example of freesia's versatile stem lengths.

Freesia History

Named after the German physician Dr. Friedrich Heinrich Theodor Freese, this flower is a native of Africa. Apparently, the flower was first brought to Europe in the 1700s, however, due to some errors was never properly classified. In 1870’s the flower was rediscovered growing in the Botanic Gardens of Padua, Italy. After this “rediscovery”, it was somehow reconnected to Dr. Freese, and the Freesia became widely cultivated after 1874.
 

How They're Grown

The process of growing a Freesia isn’t a simple one; this is because the temperature of the soil is the key factor in having a robust crop.

Here is how it works: Corms are planted directly in the soil, protected by a hoop house. The crop takes a long time to mature, typically between 20-24 weeks. During this time, the soil needs to be kept pretty warm in order to encourage the plants to grow big, tall, and healthy.  However, if the soil remains warm,  the freesia will never bloom.

Freesia in Hoop Houses

Freesia in Hoop Houses

To change the freesia from a vegetative plant to a budding flower, the soil needs to be cooled down so that it will “set bud” (aka produce flowers). Back in the old days, farmers would literally bury water pipes underground among the rows. They would run warm water through the pipes during the vegetative cycle, then start pumping cold water through the pipes when it was time for budding and the subsequent harvest.

Nowadays, that practice is still used by some, but one of the best ways to grow freesia is using the might of mother nature.   Plant freesia in spring/summer, when the soil is naturally warm.  Then as the season changes to fall, the soil will naturally cool down and freesia will begin budding.  The longer the warm-soil season is, the longer the freesia stems will be.  This is often why flower farmers will plant freesias in hoop houses--they can better control the temperature and consistency which makes for a better-quality freesia bloom.

Freesia Meanings

Freesia are said to symbolize friendship, innocence, thoughtfulness, perseverance and being high-spirited. It is also the flower given for the seventh wedding anniversary. Contemporary florists, noting its graceful appearance, recommend freesia for someone who has performed gracefully under pressure.

FreesiaUpclose.jpg





The History of Intricate Roselilies

If you haven't yet experienced the elegant and unique Roselily, you're in for quite the treat.  These extraordinary flowers are a special series of multi-layered lilies.  Just take a look at the soft, unfurled petals in the photo below.

Roselily Belonica

Roselily Belonica

As you can see, when Roselilies are fully open, they resemble the stratified characteristics of a rose, while still boasting the exceptionally positive attributes of a lily (hence the name).  

What are these "exceptionally positive attributes?"  First, for all their complicated beauty, Roselilies do not have a heavy or overpowering scent.  Rather, they offer up a light fragrance which doesn't trigger sensitive noses.  Second, they produce no pollen, which is great news for allergy-sufferers and neat-freaks alike. And third, just look at them! They are incredible, singular, and breathtaking.

roselilycenter

Roselilies are still a relatively new breed; discovered, developed, and perfected by De Looff Lily Innovation in the early 2000s.  However, commercial production of these exceptional flowers didn't actually start until a decade later (around 2011) with the favorite, Roselily Belonica.

The strongest attribute of a Roselily is its large, lushly layered bloom.  They grow best in warm, controlled greenhouse environments, which puts every bit of stored energy in the lily bulb to work.  In this way, the bulb builds its kingdom of one to two, 6+ inch blooms atop a strong, sturdy stem, seemingly multiple flowers in one.

Roselily Belonica in the Greenhouse

Roselily Belonica in the Greenhouse

The team of De Looff hasn't stopped developing new varieties, such as the striking pink Elena, the softer-hued Natalia, and the pure white variety, My Wedding (see photos below).  These beautiful and lush lilies are growing in popularity, and I'm sure that new varieties and hues will continue to come to market as demand increases.

Roselilies L-R: Elena and My Wedding

Roselilies L-R: Elena and My Wedding



Hyacinth and Basal Plates

Hyacinth are a classic bulb flower with a very passionate fan base (myself included).  They are a fascinating bit of flora--each stem has rows of intricate blossoms saturated in deep shades of blue, violet, white, pink, and yellow, each hue paired with a notable, super-heady fragrance.  When a hyacinth first begins to bloom, it produces a light floral aroma, but once the flowers fully open up the scent becomes intoxicating and powerful.  To walk into a room that contains a vase of hyacinth smells like walking into a flower shop, or arriving on the tarmac in Hawaii, or entering an English garden full of sweet flowers--absolutely heavenly.  

Purple "Atlantic" and Pink "Ann Marie" Hyacinth varieties

Purple "Atlantic" and Pink "Ann Marie" Hyacinth varieties

To grow, hyacinths need a particular set of environmental controls.  The planted bulbs need to sit in the dark for about 14-16 weeks (in a climate-controlled rooting room, or in actual winter).  During this time, they are slowly building a root structure below and yellow-green sprouts above.

Yellow-green hyacinth sprouts

Yellow-green hyacinth sprouts

Once their root structure is fully developed and the sprouts are a few inches tall, baby hyacinths can be moved into a specially designed warm, humid hoop house. The heat and humidity work together to stretch the hyacinth stems to a length of 12-14 inches.   

Within one short week of being moved from rooting room to hot hoop house, the hyacinth foliage will be dark green, their clusters of bell-shaped flowers will be showing color, and they will be giving off their signature pungent aroma. They are now ready to be "pulled."

You'll notice I said "pulled," not "picked."  The entire plant (bulb and all) must be pulled out of the ground, and then the outside of the bulb is removed, and the center is kept intact.  The bottom of this white bulb is called the “basal plate,” and when left on, it allows nutrients to continue flowing to the flower, strengthening it and doubling its vase life.

The Basal Plate

The Basal Plate

This basal plate is important.  When you receive a box or bouquet of hyacinths, do not trim the stems as you would with other flowers--leave the basal plate intact.  The hyacinth will continue to absorb water and nutrients through this plate.

hyacinth collection.jpg

They look great on their own, whether as a simple, single-color bouquet or combined with other colors.  Hyacinths also look fabulous in mixed bunches.  A flower that it complements really well is the tulip. Their contrasting shapes and texturesplay well together and the variety of color combinations is limitless.

Yellow Tulips and Pink Hyacinths   

Yellow Tulips and Pink Hyacinths

 

Red and Pink hyacinth and tulip combination

Red and Pink hyacinth and tulip combination

 The tulips natural stretching was accentuated by stones in the bottom of the vase, so it looks like tulips with a hyacinth "collar".

 The tulips natural stretching was accentuated by stones in the bottom of the vase, so it looks like tulips with a hyacinth "collar".

Gorgeous geophytes

Do you know what tulips, freesia, irisgladiolus, and lilies have in common?  Yes, they are all flowers, but the deeper, more fundamental commonality is that each one is a flowering bulb.

Tulip bulbs

Tulip bulbs

Geo+Phyte = Earth+Plant

While the word geophyte sounds like something you would call a pundit or a politician, it’s simply the overarching term for any plant with a large underground storage organ, which is commonly referred to as “the bulb.”  True bulbs (tulips, iris, and lilies) consist of layers of modified leaves and a shoot in its center.  However, this organ can come in different forms—when it is built like a thickened underground stem, it is called a tuber (think potatoes, calla lilies); when it is built like a bulb, but with additional nodes,  it is known as a corm (think freesia; gladiolus).

No matter what underground form a geophyte may take, a bulb is a perfect, self-contained little world.  It is able to store food and nutrients which allow for rapid growth and its hardiness gives it the capability to survive frost and other harsh environmental conditions.

Here's a closer look at what's inside:

Parts of a "true bulb"

Parts of a "true bulb"

Chasing the Climate Cycle

Bulbs cycle through vegetative and reproductive growth stages that look something like this: planted in the cool of the fall, a bulb will send out roots into the soil.  Tulips, in particular, need 13-15 weeks of cool weather to help establish strong roots. If the winter is particularly cold, freezing temperatures may halt the growth of the roots but will not kill them. Left to their own devices, bulbs can last quite a long time.

Sprouting tulip bulb

Sprouting tulip bulb

When spring arrives, the warmer weather reawakens the bulbs and they send their shoots out towards the sky and over a few weeks, they begin to flower. Certain environmental conditions are needed to trigger the transition from one stage to the next, such as the shift from a cold winter to spring. If you grow bulb flowers year-round, you must mimic the seasons and trick the bulbs to behave through control of temperature and light.  Despite geophytes diminutive size, they certainly do not lack in complexity.

 

 

 

The Cultivation of Iris

The long, sturdy stems of the Iris and its complex, mosaic blooms give it an air of tranquility and mystery.  One look at a vase of Iris one is immediately transported to a quiet, sunny field caressed by a light breeze.

lovely iris

lovely iris

Iris Bulbs

Temperature is key when storing and planting iris bulbs. Unlike other flowering bulbs--which are stored cold--iris bulbs are stored in heated rooms.  The heat keeps the bulbs dormant, and once the time for planting comes, their warm  slumber is broken with ethylene gas.  This is just another way flower farmers mimic nature.  Ethylene is already present in all plants as a hormone and acts to stimulate the ripening of your banana, the opening of flowers, or, in this case, the waking of dormant bulbs.  But that's just the first step in planting.  Second, the newly awakened bulbs must be cooled down, which encourages root development.

Iris sprouts

Iris sprouts

 Once awake and cooled, the iris bulbs can be planted in fresh, fertile soil.  Depending the season (as well as geographical location) iris can be planted in hoop houses (fall and winter) or in open fields (spring and summertime).  What they need is sufficient sun during the day, without oppressive heat that can cause them to go dormant.   From bulb to flower, it usually takes 2-3 months before irises are ready to be harvested.

Freshly Harvested Iris

Freshly Harvested Iris

Yellow Iris tips

Yellow Iris tips

Lily Hybrids: The Longiflorum Asiatic

Longiflorum Asiatic Lilies--better known as LA Hybrids--are not your average garden variety lilies; these are a man-made flower species, hybridized for better performance, and bred to meet and exceed the needs of flower lovers, connoisseurs, and novices alike.  Their blooms are bigger than traditional Asiatics, their vase life is the longest of any lily, and they boast the widest variety of colors.  Not only that, they are virtually scentless--perfect for those who have sensitive noses or allergies.

Orange LA Hybrid

Orange LA Hybrid

Their outstanding vase life and distinct trumpet-like shape are both traits they take from their Longiflorum side.  Their Asiatic blood guides the blooms to face upward while also being responsible for their warm, super-saturated hues. 

Yellow LA Hybrid Lilies

Yellow LA Hybrid Lilies

Growing Practices

LA Hybrids love moist, rich soil, so its best to pre-water the terrain before planting the bulbs directly into the ground.  These lilies also love warm days and cool nights, so they do well near the coast, taking about 12-16 weeks to reach the perfect time to pick--still closed, showing some color on the buds. 

LA Hybrid lilies sprouting

LA Hybrid lilies sprouting

Slow growing practices allow enough time for all the energy and nutrients from the bulb to reach the buds, so their vase life is incredible and the colors really pop.

With the right growing environment, these lilies can be harvested year-round.  They are perfect for people who love a big, bold lily, but who are also sensitive to the scent that traditionally accompanies other lily types.