Welcome to this week’s ‘In A Vase On Monday’, where I an linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to see what we can cut from our gardens to fill a vase for the house every week.

I would like to give a particular welcome to any visitors from my local computer club, who may be popping in tonight to see what is going on after a talk I gave today about the world of blogging.

I have been keeping my fingers crossed that this week would see the start of the tulips and this weekend the early double tulip Cilesta was the first to flower in the Cutting Garden. I have to admit that it took me by surprise as I tend to choose most of my early tulips in gentler shades, with the more vibrant colours flowering later in the season. This reflects my personal choice of tulips for my flower beds as tulips come in all shades throughout the season. This year as I was buying for the Cutting Garden I have chosen a broader range of shapes and colours than usual. Cilesta is new to me this year.

Tulip Cilesta with Forythia & Kerria

On reflection it makes sense to grow a bright tulip at this time of year as the colours work so well with the forsythia and the kerria that have been flowering for the last week.  I love the way they have all combined in this flamboyant outsized arrangement.

If you look at the base of the vase you will see how the mechanics of the arrangement work. I bought this metal arranger from The Real Flower Company at the Chelsea Flower Show a couple of years ago and it has been invaluable for large scale arrangements. It sits in the bottom of the vase and I can then feed stems into the gaps and the flowers will stand upright. At first I was intending to use tape across the top of the vase to create a grid, but tulip stems can be quite thick and I was worried they would not sit naturally in the grid. Then I remembered I had this arranger sitting in a cupboard and it worked perfectly. In an ideal world I would have used some of the discarded tulip leaves inside the vase to hide the arranger. Time was very short today however and I thought it would be useful for you to see how it works.

Tulip Cilesta

As these tulips were purchased for cutting, they were planted in the Cutting Garden in early December last year, after the dahlias had been cleared from the bed. To give the longest stem length for arrangements I pull the bulb up with the flower when I pick the tulip, so the bulbs are planted quite shallowly in the ground. I did not need a towel to pick these flowers – a sharp tug and out they came. This has the added advantage of making bulb planting quick and easy.

Tulip Cilesta

It may seem wasteful to lift the bulb with the flower, but tulips are not always reliable for future years and in a Cutting Garden you need the largest flowers possible every year. Also it is easier to replant the bed with annuals if you are not working around the dying foliage of tulips. The key is to buy small quantities of a variety of bulbs, so that all the tulips can be used as gifts or in arrangements. Bulbs are much cheaper to buy than flowers and there are so many more varieties available than you will find in the supermarket or florist.

Tulip Cilesta

In contrast to the tulips in the Cutting Garden, tulips in my flower borders are planted as deeply as I can manage – I aim for about 8-10 inches. Tulips that are planted shallowly will tend to split and form small bulbs and hence small flowers in their second year. I find that the single early varieties, such as Purple Prince, last for many years. I also have great success with Spring Green and the late flowering Queen of the Night. Parrot tulips, in contrast, rarely seem to reappear as successfully in their second year.

Tulip Cilesta

Cilesta is a lovely double that I am looking forward to making full use of over the coming weeks. I purchased the bulbs from The Gee Tee Bulb Company who have a large selection of tulips available from early summer onwards. I expect that I will try this tulip in a permanent planting position in the autumn. One of the beauties of growing tulips in a Cutting Garden is the opportunity to trial a small quantity of bulbs of an unknown variety. I can happily plant whatever I fancy without worrying about how they will look in my main beds. Now that I know how Cilesta performs, I can visualise it in the brightly coloured border behind the greenhouse.

Tulip Cilesta

I love the yellow kerria that bursts into flower at this time of year. If I am lucky I will get a second flowering later in the summer. It can be quite a rampant shrub, but responds well to hard pruning.

Tulip Cilesta

Also looking lovely is the forsythia that is peeping over hedges and tumbling across boundary walls as I drive around my village. Forsythia is deeply out of fashion at the moment and considered rather common. I would like to see it return to favour as it is a remarkably versatile shrub. You can grow it on a single trunk as a small tree, cut it into pleasing shapes like topiary, make a vibrant hedge from it, confine it to a small space or allow it to ramble freely in a country setting. It is also perfect for adding height and movement to spring flower arrangements.

I am looking forward to sharing more tulips with you throughout April. I seem to have tulips about to flower in every bed and in contrast to last year I think it is unlikely that many will wait until May. Cilesta was sold as flowering in mid April and is already out at the end of March!

I hope you have time to pop over to Cathy’s blog to have a look at what she and the others have made this week.