If you read last week’s post you know how wholly inspired I was by the spectacular display of thousands of multi-hued tulips which I had to opportunity to view during my recent visit to the Biltmore Estate Gardens.
I would dearly love to be able to grow these showy bulbs in my yard but have learned, through several failed attempts, that as soon as these precious bulbs emerge from the ground, herds of rampaging deer in my area are basically hearing the dinner bell. So, alas, because it’s not possible for me to create a Biltmore-style walled garden around my property, the only bulbs I can successfully grow in my neighborhood are daffodils. I’ve learned the reason deer leave daffodils alone is that they contain lycorine, a bitter substance that is poisonous.
Now, there is nothing wrong with daffodils, particularly these days when so many different beautiful varieties are available. However, there’s just something about the shape and the colors of tulips that really appeals to me.
Since I can’t grow my own tulips, I tend to buy many cut bunches of the colorful bulbs throughout Spring, when they are readily available in the grocery store. Trader Joe’s is my favorite place to purchase a wide variety of relatively inexpensive quality flowers.
As much as I love tulips, they are a bit tricky to arrange because they tend to have a mind of their own. Not only do they continue to grow after they are cut, but they also bend, droop and don’t really stay where you put them in your arrangement. Because of this, and because tulips stems are often too soft to insert easily into floral foam, I like to use various flower arranging tools when arranging tulips.
Flower Arranging Tools
One such flower arranging tool that is specifically designed for arranging tulips is called a tulipiere. Initially, tulipieres were fancy vases with multiple spouts, intended to display a single forced tulip bulb in each spout with a common water reservoir in the base. Tulipieres first came to prominence during the tulip trading mania which occurred from 1636-1637 in Holland. These elaborate tulip vessels were most often created in, the quintessentially Dutch, blue and white pottery called Delftware. Quite grand in scale, tulipieres were a considered a status symbol for the wealthy elite of the time.
During the Victorian era, tulipieres became fashionable once again, when they were more commonly used to display cut flowers. Nowadays, these functional and attractive tulip vases are available in a variety of styles and sizes. I recently purchased this nine-inch white ceramic tulipiere which is shaped like an artichoke.
Tips For Preparing Tulips For Arrangements
To prepare tulips for arranging in my tulipiere (or any type of vase), use a sharp knife to cut away all, or almost all of the leaves, except for the topmost leaves that will be above the waterline. This will prevent the rapid growth of bacteria and allow your tulips to stay fresh as long as possible. Once you’ve stripped the leaves, use secateurs or flower-cutting shears to cut the stems at a 45° angle so they can absorb water easily. Tulips last longer in less water, so fill your vase only one-third to one-half full with cool water along with a packet of floral preservative.
For a tulipiere like mine, it is necessary to cut the tulips in different lengths for each tier leaving the top-tier stems the longest so they can reach the shallow water. I also discovered that it is easiest to insert the tulips in the top level first and work down to each successive tier.
Another flower arranging tool which is useful for arranging tulips is a flower frog. Frogs are small devices that sit in the bottom of a vase or bowl and are made up of a series of holes or metal needles designed to hold flowers in place.
While tulipieres and short cut-stems with frogs tend to keep unruly tulips in place, sometimes it’s desirable to create arrangements with more loose and free-flowing tulips. However, if you use a wide mouth vase, it helps to have some kind of framework to help keep your flowers from traveling. You can use waterproof tape to create a grid on top of the opening of the vase, or you can use this Easy Arranger to hold your flowers in place.
The galvanized wire floral shaped grid bends to fit over the edge of your vase and provides a series of different sized openings for placing your various stems.
One last way of corralling wayward tulips I like to use is to place a few long-stemmed showy specimens entirely inside a glass cylinder. The tall glass vases keep tulips upright, while stones or pebbles scattered in the base help to position the stems.
Even though tulips are not particularly long-lived cut flowers and, they tend to do their own thing, you can bring these beautiful Spring bulbs into your home and easily arrange them with confidence using a tulipiere or other simple flower arranging tools.
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