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Many are crazy about tulips, but no 'mania' here

I was at a garden center when I overheard a woman complaining, because the store wasn't going to stock her favorite tulips. But even though I shared the woman's disappointment, her complaint caused me to snicker.

I really couldn't help it, though, since I felt as if I was listening to a conversation that could have taken place centuries ago during the period of 17th-century, Dutch history known as "Tulip Mania."

During "Tulip Mania," tulips were the most popular plants to grow in Holland. Except that speculators drove up tulip prices so high that entire fortunes were made by selling single bulbs — and then fortunes were lost when their prices plummeted and became dirt-cheap.

By the way, this is a good time of year to shop for tulip bulbs and other spring-flowering bulbs, because now is when the selection is best. Prices are pretty good, too, so it doesn't cost a fortune to plant an attractive display.

Species tulips

My favorite tulips are the "species tulips." Also known as "botanical tulips" and "wild-type tulips," they reliably "naturalize" (multiply) and return each spring. Rodents don't eat them, either, and they're too short to be damaged by high winds. In fact, most types grow no taller than 6 inches. Species tulips bloom for up to two weeks. There are plenty of colors to choose from, including shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, as well as multicolor combinations.

I plant species tulips 3 inches deep and 2 inches apart in soil that drains freely, and since these plants are only above ground for a couple of months in the spring, I plant them where they'll receive full sun during their growing season.

Which reminds me. Species tulips are perfect for planting beneath trees that don't leaf-out until late spring or early summer. Yet they look equally good along the fronts of flower beds and borders.

Species tulips are becoming increasingly more popular. But because the supply is good, prices remain steady. So unless consumers panic and start to purchase them like there's no tomorrow, don't worry about a present-day

repeat of Tulip Mania.

This week in the garden

I'm firming up my plans for planting more spring-flowering bulbs — before I go shopping.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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