When tulips chill out, we get a house gift


Tulips, Swiss Alps

Flower shops filled with tulips in the spring always surprise me, because I almost never cut my tulips to bring them indoors, and I forget that other people fill vases with them and set them around the house.

I think I’m lucky to have streaks of gay color from them spread around outside, brightening the view from every window. The Dutch have done such a superb job of taming them that we forget these are magnificent mountain wild flowers. My favorites are red ones that tumble down from the top of the field next door, true farmer’s tulips.

I plant more exotic varieties and a lot of colors, but these are more susceptible to the cold, and the temperature can dip below freezing until at least mid-May, sometimes later, at 1,000 meters altitude.


Tulips bending from beautiful blooms' weight

Last weekend I was enjoying this particular variegated group when I noticed that one, a lovely flower, had a broken stem.

The cold at night weakens the stems and when they are top-heavy with luscious blooms they tumble over, sometimes breaking the stem.

I took it inside, put the single bloom on its side in a small wooden dish, no water, and it became our centerpiece for two days, giving off a deep perfume while we admired its elegance indoors for a change.

The color and perfume remained far longer than I expected, reminding me that for all their delicate beauty, tulips are pretty tough! I don’t cut the stems of mine – there are far too many – and I don’t dig them up, just hoping they will make it through tough winters. I do divide them when they multiply to the point where the flowers start to get smaller, once every 3-4 years. Gardener Doug Green has some sound advice on caring for tulips. One especially good tip: don’t water them after they’ve bloomed.


The fallen tulip finds a home inside

Back out in the garden, another spring treasure was the sudden blossoming of the strawberry plants, We’re a good two weeks below the gardens down the hill, on the plain, but I’m happy to wait: I’d wager our strawberries are among the world’s best!


Alpine full-size strawberries give us these charming flowers a month before the berries are red and ripe