Tulip Time!

Tulip season has come and gone for the year, but we still have the memory of those lush, colourful blooms preening prettily in the warm spring sunshine. And photos! ‘Cause pics or it didn’t grow. ūüėČ Or, in a couple of cases, “pics-and-I-still-have-no-idea-what-this-is.” MUST make better notes next year – or any notes at all, really – of what I bought and where I put it, because as much as a I like a nice floral surprise, I put too much work into cultivating these tender and touchy flowers not to know exactly what they are and where I stuck ’em!

With the exception of four varieties of bulb I purchased last year from the Canadian Tulip Festival (an annual event in Ottawa, Ontario dating back to 1953), all of the bulbs I’ve purchased have been from Breck’s Bulbs. I had some difficulties this season with last season’s bulbs, which, with a couple of exceptions, I left in the ground over the winter in the hopes that they would naturalize, or self-propagate, and show themselves again this year. That….didn’t quite happen. Some returned for Tulipalooza ’22, but the majority seemed to be overtaken by the rapid growth of the other plants and flowers in the garden. I suppose it’s hard to stretch and reach for the sun when you’re drowning in gargantuan hosta leaves. Lessons learned. On with the show!

Black Parrot Tulip

These fringed, variegated tulips are a favourite, and indeed, one of just a handful of 2021’s varieties that actually made it to 2022. I was pleased to see the green and dark purple flames that developed on the petals this season; last year, they were a universal purpley-black.

Brisbane Tulip

These were a fun addition to the garden this season, with their ruffled, tequila sunrise-soaked blooms. Brisbanes are short little tulips, so they may need extra protection from the ruddy rodents, but if you can keep them alive, they’ll happily bloom in your garden for weeks on end.

Canada 150 Tulip/Grand Perfection Tulip

Here are some perfectly patriotic petals, a gorgeous, be-flamed specimen by the name of a Grand Perfection Tulip. I purchased these bulbs from the Tulip Fest under the name of Canada 150, in honour of Canada’s 150th year of Confederation. I maybe didn’t have the highest hopes for these – eh, red and white stripes – but these 150s were gorgeous, growing tall and proud (standing on guard for thee?) and developing over a series of weeks into these jumbo, vibrantly striped beauties.

Guinevere Jumbo Tulip

Here’s another favourite, the Guinevere Pink Jumbo Tulip, a way early bloomer that I apparently have a great fondness for, as I’ve ordered it two seasons in a row. I love the way these humongous blooms morph over a series of weeks from pale pink, green flame’d buds to a rich, pink lemonade-filled cup of sunshine. Gosh, they’re just beautiful.

Mascotte Tulip

Here’s another beauty, a relative of the Brisbane by the name of a Mascotte Tulip. Short, compact and bursting with the most beautiful, hot pink flowers, these Mascotte Tulips never failed to put a smile on my face.

National Velvet Tulip

Here’s another beautiful pick from the Tulip Festival, this time the plush – and indeed, quite velvety-looking – National Velvet Tulip. Like the Canada Day 150s, these tall, vibrant tulips grew like mad. I don’t believe there was a dud in the whole gorgeous bunch.

Peppermint Stick Tulip

Like the Black Parrot Tulips that kicked off this post, these tiny, star-shaped Peppermint Stick Tulips are one of just a handful of varieties that I was able to carry from one season to another with minimal damage. I think placement might be doing all the hard work here – I have them snugged up against a rock in the front beds, and their daffy little heads seem to adore the residual heat.

Pretty Princess Tulip

Here’s yet another stunning pick from the Tulip Festival, this time the regally named Pretty Princess Tulip, a hot pink and orange flame’d beauty that is my pick for 2022’s MVP. I very nearly didn’t purchase this tulip, and in fact, in the late summer, I received a message from the Tulip Fest stating that whatever I had purchased was going to be replaced with these Pretty Princesses, on account of destructive flooding in Denmark that had wiped out many of their crops. I’m glad these beauties made it through, because they’re just stunning.

Showgirl Tulip

These unique Showgirl Tulips – hot pink tips with white and lilac blue flames – are another holdover from last season, although they didn’t fare as well as either the Black Parrots or the Peppermint Stick Tulips. The three tiny blooms clustered together in the top right photograph are all I was able to pull from the garden, and aside from being small, small, small, they bore virtually none of the rarely-seen-in-nature blue hue from the previous season. Bit of a bummer, that, but I was glad to see their distinctive blooms this season just the same.

Whatchimatulips

Finally, we have the big question marks of the year, this cool pink, tone-on-tone beauty (for which I have zero records to indicate what the heck it even is; I think it may be one of the two Tulip Festival switcheroos) and these stunning fuchsia and pale yellow tulips that look as though they’re lit from within. What the heck even are you guys?!

And with that, 2022’s tulip season has come to a close. Lapse in record-keeping aside, I was really pleased with how things went. With few exceptions, my bulbs bloomed beautifully, and I suffered far fewer rodent-related breakdowns than seasons past (still had a couple, including one very early morning freakout when I ran outside in my pyjamas and bare feet to yell at a squirrel accosting my bitty little Brisbanes. The neighbours have got to think I’ve slipped a cog, yeah? The squirrel certainly thought I had!)

‘Till next year, tulips!

Home is Where the Everything is

Hey there, Interwebs! Been a month. Or two. Or seven.

And where have I been? Oh, here, there and everywhere, if the here we’re talking about is my house, the there we’re talking about is also my house, and the everywhere is the space immediately surrounding my house. I’ve always been a major homebody – home is where the heart and the food lives – but this pandemic-related semi-self-confinement is getting ridiculous. News to absolutely no one who hasn’t been living under the proverbial rock of ignorance, but life these days is difficult, stressful and expensive. Even if I was in the mood for that quaint old notion of enjoyment over pure, mind-numbing survival, there are precious few fun funds to be found. Twice-yearly Disney vacations are a thing of what feels like the very distant past. Hell, even the cost of a 20-minute jaunt out to a favourite ice cream shop in the country is just a bit too much, gas prices being what they are.

Our lives on this planet amount to more than our bank balances, but I question what all this financial squeezing, pinching, limiting and restricting is doing to us when it keeps us from living our lives in any meaningful way. Perhaps multiple Disney vacations a year is – and was – financially insupportable for all but the wealthiest (or most indebted) families, but when you question the financial impact of a half-hour country drive and choose instead to just stay on home, you know something’s seriously amiss.

Mr. Finger Candy and I are, to use a tiresome phrase, doing okay. We’re hanging in there. We’re surviving, and then some. We have a beautiful roof over our heads, a bit of extra dough for improvements, plenty of Temptations for the cats and two-and-a-half specialty subscription channels on our TV. We’re doing okay.

But we’re tired of making the daily choice – really no choice at all – to either pay outrageously inflated prices for the things and experiences we once took for granted, or just. stay. home. More and more, home is winning out.

And while it may be where the heart and the food is – also, apparently, there’s no place like it – home can be boring and confining. Most days I feel like that old poster (like a meme, kids, but physical) of a chubby, stressed-out cat clinging to the inside of an old screen door: Kitty Wants Out.

Living where I do (eastern Ontario, Canada, North America, the Earth, the galaxy, the universe) it’s cold and snowy for a solid six months of the year, just adding to that disorienting, almost Shining-esque sense of imposed cabin fever. But

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES SANDRA A DULL GIRL.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES SANDRA A DULL GIRL.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES SANDRA A DULL GIRL.

Whoops, sorry about that! Thankfully, the very best way to counteract a major case of the Jack Torrances is to get out in nature (just watch out for those hedge mazes, yeah?) And our property is rich in nature, so I’ve really got my make-work cut out for me now that the spring has arrived.

What does any of this have to do with anything? Just pointing out that over the coming days, in an effort to combat the doldrums of life and an inexcusable, seven-month-long lapse in blogging, I’m going to highlight some of the yard and gardening work I’ve done to beautify my home and brighten my days. Aaaaannnnd maybe also show off a bit, because wouldn’t you if you had tulips this gorgeous in your yard?

I hope you’ll return tomorrow so we can share in the fun and, honestly, the occasional total calamity that is me blundering about my garden. Should be good for a laugh. Or two. Or seven.

Tulipalooza

Bit of a throwback there for the Gen X near-olds of Ottawa, Ontario. Show of hands if you, too, spent a weekend in May 1990-something lolling about Major’s Hill Park, ostensibly there to admire the thousands of rainbow-hued tulips that were, and continue to be, the main draw of the Canadian Tulip Festival, but actually there to flirt with cute boys (and girls) at the all-ages alternative rock show. I met my second boyfriend in just that fashion, in line for the Pepsi Taste Challenge, which was beside the Much Music Video Dance booth, just in case I haven’t aged myself enough with these references. It won’t shock you to learn that that weekend also involved hacky sacks, neon pink comb-in hair gel, and many appearances of local musical weirdo-heroes, Furnaceface.

But I digress. This post is actually about the tulipalooza that I hosted in my garden this past spring, a throwback in itself given that tulip season has LONG since passed.

And that season was, to put it poetically, a beautiful nightmare. It started in the fall of 2020 when I purchased nine or 10 different varieties of heirloom bulbs from Breck’s Bulbs (zero complaints there; the bulbs I bought were in beautiful shape, white, fresh and plump.) In anticipation of the bastard rodents that would surely make merry with my tender tulips, Mr. Finger Candy made eight cages out of zip ties and chicken wire to lock the bulbs in before I planted them in the ground. I then planted a couple dozen, foolishly unprotected, in the pie-shaped bed at the front of the house. I had been inside maybe 15 minutes before I looked out the window and saw that arsehole squirrels had made off with at least three. Mr. Finger Candy leapt to the rescue once again, this time pinning an entire sheet of chicken wire directly on top of the soil.

Winter came and went, and in the spring my fledgling tulips began to fledge. I was so excited to look outside and see their tender green shoots just beginning to poke through the loamy gloom! And then the rodents returned, kneecapping my efforts – and the growth of my flowers – at every. single. turn. It also snowed in the middle of April, necessitating a frosty jaunt out to the beds in my flip flops to rescue the more advanced blooms.

I spent the majority of my spring vacillating between wild gardening highs and crushing rodent lows (not to suggest that I ever actually physically harmed the thieving little jerks, unless you count dosing my flower beds with Da Bomb hot sauce-infused water, a neat little trick that only occasionally proved successful.)

Highs? This absolutely stunning bouquet of inky purple Queen of the Night tulips, ruffled Black Parrots and bubblegum pink Fancy Frills I pulled from the front bed at the very end of the season. How such gorgeous specimens dodged the Wrath of Rodent, I’ll never know, but I loved having this cut bouquet in our home for the two weeks that it remained pert and bright and upright.

I also loved this sunset-hued bouquet of early bloomers I clipped during that aforementioned springtime snowstorm. These gorgeous, plush blossoms are Coral Pride and Pink Pride tulips mixed in with some yellow and white tulips that just randomly sprang up in the yard (I call that gardening by squirrel, or let the tulips lay where they may.)

Another high? This unique blossom, a Showgirl tulip. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a blue flower before (okay, purple-grey) let alone grown one.

The cool tones of this beautiful tulip matched nothing else in the garden, which certainly didn’t matter to the squirrels, who seemed to find these particular flowers extra delicious. But when I was able to actually bring one or two inside, I just wound up hodge podgeing them together with whatever else was in bloom, making for some interesting arrangements.

Lows? Oh, pretty much any time I looked outside and saw a wilted pile of leaves, or worse, a tall, green stem with a nipped-off blossom just laying in the dirt beside it. My mom said, with a note of concerned pride in her voice, “Well, you’re a real gardener now!” when I called her one morning, wracked with sobs and blubbering about my decimated tulips. Apparently heartbreak is just part of the gardening deal? I *might* even have been sort of understanding if the rodents actually ate the tulips, or derived some sort of sustenance from them. Canadian winters are hard; I suppose I can’t fault the little guys for falling on the first fresh greenery they’ve seen in months. But to just nip off the head and then leave it there, fully intact, the plant now utterly destroyed, is unconscionable. I could wring their little rodent necks.

Instead, I began dosing my beds with ground cinnamon, ground cayenne pepper and hot sauce-infused water. Capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers, is also usually the first active ingredient in critter ridder preparations, none of which seem to work very well, and all of which are quite expensive. So I bought a bunch of ground cayenne pepper at the bulk store and sprinkled it around my tulips. It worked as an invisible barrier more often than not, as did the hot sauce treatment, but I still suffered losses to squirrels who are apparently impervious to the pain of a 2 million scoville-rated hot sauce. As for the cinnamon, I was thinking anything that burns. Have you ever inhaled a bunch of ground cinnamon (or worse, done the cinnamon challenge)? It hurts and smells incredible all at the same time. I was just looking for the squirrel version of that. Is this also a sign that I’m becoming a “real” gardener, that I don’t want to hurt the rodents that thoughtlessly thrashed my garden, but I do want them to pay?

It’s been a learning process, that’s for sure, and one that I’m in the process of repeating right this very moment (get those bulb orders in now!) Heartbreak and tears notwithstanding. Only next time I’ll be approaching the whole endeavor with a bit more gardening wisdom – and A LOT more physical barriers.

Tulip Fest

Tulip Fest Angle

The Canadian Tulip Festival is a thing that happens in my fair hometown of Ottawa, Ontario every May, a grand, sprawling celebration of, among other things, the 100,000 tulip bulbs the Dutch royal family gifted to Canada in 1945 as thanks for sheltering a princess and her daughters during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. ¬†The great-great-great-great-great-great-to-whatever-infinity grand-flowers of those original tulips have blossomed every spring here in the Nation’s Capital (or not; sometimes we still get snow at this time of year) since 1953. ¬†As a kid I’d go every couple of years with my parents or perhaps on a school trip, but I haven’t been since high school, when the festival was overflowing with awesome alternative music acts (Tulipalooza was the jam) and a ludicrous number of opportunities to meet cute, grungy boys (once again, thank you Tulipalooza!)

The Canadian Tulip Fest actually just wrapped up its 2017 season, so the artists, the musicians and the Big Lemon have all left the building, but the tulips – over¬†a million spread out in vast beds across the city – are still here, and doing really quite well in our deeply unpredictable spring weather. ¬†So I thought I’d do some nails to commemorate the commemoration of the tulips that commemorate the very special relationship between Canada and the Netherlands. ¬†Phew!

And this has been your Canadian nail art history moment.  Please join me next time when I recount how my family is related to Laura Secord, a war heroine who actually has nothing to do with the chocolate empire that bears her name.  But for now, the tulips!

Tulip Fest Front