Tuesday, May 5, 2015

One Red Tulip in a Field of Yellow

Corner Maple and Brooks (click to enlarge)
May 5, 2015: The intersection of Summer, Maple and Brooks Streets is abloom with 400 tulips, courtesy of volunteer efforts of the Maynard Community Gardeners. Go look.

Every plant, planted, is a commitment to the future. Some commitments take longer than others. Nut-bearing trees take tens of years to reach good yields. Flowering bulbs, on the other hand, represent a gardener's shortcut. Because commercial bulb growing operations produce bulbs of optimal size, all the gardener has to do is make a hole in the ground, step back, and wait until spring. 

Tulips are packaged by type to bloom in early- mid- or late-spring. This week's flowers, from bulbs planted in the fall of 2012, are mid-spring blooming Darwin hybrids, in yellow, red, pink and orange. The planting closest to Summer Street is all yellow, with the exception of one red tulip.  

Planting in well-drained soil will all but guarantee the first year's bloom. Ideally, the plant's leaves will capture enough solar energy to create a good-sized new bulb for the subsequent year. But in less than ideal conditions the new bulb will be smaller, and the next year, smaller still. These compromised bulbs either put out one large leaf and no flower or small leaves and a stunted flower. And that is a signal to dig everything up and start over. In this year, the third year of blooms, most of the tulips are still uniform in timing, height and flower size, but a significant number are starting to fail.    

Balancing rock, near tulip beds
If you plan to plant bulbs this fall, know that any set of instructions beginning with "Make a hole in the ground..." is misleadingly simplistic. There are three basic strategies - make a hole for each individual bulb, digging a trench for a row of bulbs, or dig out an entire bed and put in lots of bulbs. My preference is to go big. Because, honestly, a row of a dozen tulips is pitiful. If you buy into making a big impact then purchase at least fifty bulbs of the same type. Next, dig a hole covering eight square feet, eight inches deep. Discard all plant matter, roots and rocks.

Set aside for later examination all mysterious foreign objects. Things I've unearthed in my yard include cattle-sized bones, pottery shards, a 1968 quarter, square-cut nails, roofing nails, whole glass bottles and lots of broken glass.   

Next, put back two inches of the dirt, add an equal amount of compost (either from your compost pile or purchased) and mix. Firmly press the tulip bulbs into the loose soil about four inches apart. Avoid making rows. Cover with another two inches of dirt and then water copiously. Add another two inches of dirt, then walk all over to pack it down. Add the rest of the dirt followed by an inch of mulch. All this will take many hours. Many body parts will hurt.

One red tulip in a patch of yellow (and a pansy in the front row)
The one red tulip amongst the yellow was deliberate. There is a Japanese term, wabi-sabi, described as "Wabi-sabi represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modest, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes." [Wikipedia]

Spring 2014, as the tulips began to show their color, someone removed the one red flower. Perhaps for this person the odd flower was an error by the gardener, to be improved by a judicious beheading. As of today's writing the one red tulip still graces the flowerbed.  

Wild pansy - origin at this site mysterious
Tulips, as is true for many other flowers, have symbolic meanings. In general, a gift of tulips is a declaration of love. Red for true love, with the black of the inside center said to represent the heart of a lover burnt to a cinder with passion. Pink means friendship and affection without the overtones of romantic love. Orange tulip flowers symbolize warmth and happiness. Purple tulip flowers are traditionally associated with royalty - but now show up in bridal bouquets.

White tulip flowers are a means of asking for forgiveness, but also represent purity, innocence and respect. So again, brides. Cream-colored tulips confer commitment. Variegated/multi-color tulips are thought to symbolize beautiful eyes because of their gorgeous color patterns, perhaps making the perfect date flower. Black tulips, actually, a deep violet, maroon or wine-dark color, symbolize farewell, or perhaps not-that-into-you, so are NOT the perfect date flower.

George Daley Square (bronze sign in first photo), honors one of Maynard's soldiers who died in World War I.  Daley was one of eight who died in that war and are honored with plaques about town.


  1. Hi David
    Each time I go to your blog, I find something interesting.
    Just love this red tulip ! And the concept of Wabi Sabi. It perfectly fits my day.

  2. Situation of the guide was to type a dark tulip. There was a time in Netherlands when tulip lights were worth a great cope of cash and where performance were made and missing on a bulb! Just like our present discuss marketplaces where people can be taken away spending a lot of cash on the present favorite shares. Nothing has changed! There are now over a hundred different varieties, with the causing compounds operating into a large number of types. "The Black Tulip" novelist