GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2004 show1
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This week we visit Columbia, South Carolina and Mike Dawson director of The River Alliance. Mike tells us about the rivers in Columbia and their importance to the area. 12,000 years ago people used the fertile soil of these rivers to create their sustenance. We still see that today. Where we're filming is actually a huge vegetable and rock garden. Three rivers, the Broad, Saluda and Congeree come together in Columbia. They literally go from the mountains to the sea in South Carolina. The rocks in the river are the geological fall line and create an unusual habitat. It is the home to the Rocky Shoal Spider Lily and home to some enormous trees. The Congeree National Park is Americas newest National Park and harbors the largest growth forest East of the Mississippi.

The green way now extends three miles and eventually will encompass 12 miles. Two years ago this was an abandoned piece of land with no public access. It is now filled with people running, hiking, fishing, putting in boats and concerts. There are people in wheelchairs, bicycles, roller blades, etc. On any given Sunday 350 people per hour will pass through this park.

We look at an 1840's picture of the Columbia skyline, it is radically different today but there were many beautiful gardens then as there are today. Columbia has a rich history in gardening, we'll visit one particularly impressive example today.

We meet B. J. Dall. She has been planting Tulips for about 20 years, they have always been a part of her garden, her main focus in the spring. Her garden beds were designed so she could plant annuals and have flowers all the time. Her Tulips are some of the most beautiful, most incredible Tulips we've seen.

B.J. is a critical care nurse. It's high stress and digging in the dirt is her way of getting rid of stress and frustration. Her plants bring her a lot of pleasure.

Her front yard is very public, it's there for anybody who wants to come by, sit on a bench and relax. Her backyard is very private, nobody has access to it except for her and her family. She lives 2 miles from downtown, yet it is very quiet and very private. With all the craziness in the world having a place to cocoon is a good idea.

B.J. first saw an ad for Tulips as perennials. She bought 100 or so and needless to say in the South they weren't perennial. But she was hooked and she now plants about 10,000 Tulips each year.

When purchasing Tulip bulbs make sure you buy enough of any one color to make a statement. By that , she thinks that 50 are needed in a small spot. This will provide one intense spot that everyone will see and provides an explosion of color. Whether white or black or somewhere in between, Tulips are all beautiful.

Her beds in the front yard are raised beds, in these she uses one color or one color combination. Above them in containers, for example she uses another color that either corresponds or contrasts. Your eye then goes from the front of the house to the pots on the porch.

Dr. Rick asks about her design philosophy. B.J. plants about 750 bulbs in one bed, she then continues across a walkway, etc. with the same bulbs so that there is a continuation from one bed into another. In this case the mass of Tulips extends beyond the sidewalk, beyond the stairs, around the front of her house. This is a great strategy, whether it's bulbs or other ground covers or any plant, look for a way to tie everything together. Forget where your walkways are, extend the planting on both sides.

With her containers she has used the same color, this year purple. It is a contrasting color between the white and the red in the beds and the purple in her containers. She has taken a lot of different style, size and shaped pots and planted them with the exact same plant. This weaves everything together and creates a sense of unity.

What B.J. has done underneath the Tulips is also stunning and an important part of the composition. After she finishes planting Tulip bulbs, she goes back and over plants with Violas. That way she has color in her beds before the Tulips come up and after the Tulips are spent. It is an under planting for color.

B.J. gets 2 to 3 months of color from her Tulips, even though she is in the warm part of the country. She accomplishes this by buying tulips that are early-season, mid-season and late season bloomers. Her Tulip season lasts from early March normally through May.

In her front yard she has red Tulips and striped Tulips, both Darwin. The striped Tulips are called Whirl. They get whiter as they mature. Some Peony Tulips are also planted in the front, they are later bloomers.

Most pinks are early bloomers, the reds mid season and the whites are later season.

If you live in a part of the country where winters are mild and enjoy winter annuals like Pansies or Flowering Cabbage or Kale, a great idea for containers is to double plant them with Tulips. To do this- fill the container about half way up with soil, put in a layer of bulbs, then fill the container and put in flowering plants like Pansies. You'll be able to enjoy them all winter, then in the Spring get an explosion of color when the Tulips bloom. Make sure the colors for both plants go well together.

B.J. doesn't have a favorite Tulip. She likes reds, pinks and all others. Tulip planting isn't a blood sport for her. She likes to give Tulips to others, she takes them to work everyday. She derives great pleasure from her garden and her Tulips.

There are thousands of different types of Tulips, B.J. shows us a few. The Peony Tulip is easy to grow, this one is called Monte Carlo. It is a double because it has 2, 3, maybe 4 layers of pedals.

Next we see a Fringe Tulip. It will get much larger as it matures.

Tulips will grow in water as well as in the ground.

Alopeo comes in just about any color.

Triumphant is a white Tulip, a Lily Tulip. It has spiked ends and looks like a Lily. Another Lily Tulip is Blushing Lady, it has subdued colors that deepen as it matures.

We saw the Darwin Tulips in the front yard. They are bread and butter Tulips and have been around a long time. They're great for cutting, have a strong stem, grow tall and are beautiful in a vase.

Tulips come in every color in the rainbow. There are blue Tulips, a Blue Parrot, is a very pretty blue. There are black Tulips, in particular Queen of The Night. As she matures she darkens, It really is a deep purple but called black. There are green Tulips, called Verde Tulips. There is one called Greenland. It is mostly green with a little white. They also come in red, green and pink and are low growing.

Variegated Tulips are also available. The one we saw in the front yard is called Whirl.

Rembrant is a striped Tulip and they are available in a variety of colors. When blending Tulips, say a red and yellow, these are wonderful as a transition.

If you're thinking about planting Tulips first consider climate. Tulips prefer areas of the country where there is a distinct chill. If the summers are long and hot you will probably need to treat your Tulips as annuals. In other words once they bloom, remove them. Where summers aren't so hot treat them as perennials. Regardless they might be short lived. After a Tulip blooms it needs to refresh itself. Plenty of sun and cool temperatures in the summer allow the bulb to regain all the carbohydrates and stored energy needed for it to come back. If they bloom the first year and the second year the stems are very short or it has no flower at all, you're doing nothing wrong. It most likely is a function of warm temperatures. Tulips need sunshine when they're blooming. In fact it's interesting to take a picture of a Tulip early in the day, midday, then afternoon. You can actually see the head follow the sun. Plant Tulips under Deciduous trees. That way, while they're blooming, they will get plenty of sun, but when the trees leaf out they provide a respite from the heat and hopefully the Tulips will then come back year after year.

The conditions below ground are important for Tulips as well. Tulips need rich but sandy soil. One of the most important ingredients for success with Tulips, particularly if you want them to come back year after year is well drained soil. They don't like wet feet. Raised beds are helpful. Particularly in the winter Tulips don't like it wet. If they stay too soggy anaerobic bacteria will impact Tulips. A well drained soil with some organic matter, maybe 25% by volume, is a good environment for the roots and bulb.

Planting techniques are also important. A friable soil is important. Till the ground so that it is easy to work with your hands. Tulips are not extensive or tough rooters and need a soil that is easy to move through. Also, the depth of the bulb is important. Look at the width of the bulb, then plant them three times as deep as they are wide. If you live in the South, where temperatures are warm it is a good idea to plant them a little deeper. B.J. plants hers about 8 inches deep. If you live in a cooler part of the country, plant them higher. Again soil is a consideration. If in a sandy soil, they can be planted deep. If a heavy clay soil, plant them shallow.

The time of year one plants is also important. If you live in a part of the country where temperatures typically get below 32 degrees, when that happens, put the bulbs in the ground. If temperatures stay warm and you don't get frost it's best to wait until November, even December before planting. Otherwise they start growing vegetatively and they'll either not bloom or they'll bloom poorly. B.J. keeps her bulbs in a refrigerator until she is ready to plant them.

Dr. Rick gives us a botany lesson. The Tulip bulb is a modified stem, it is a true bulb. On the outside is a papery layer called the Tunic. It tends to protect the bulb from microorganisms, from damage, from gofers, etc. It's somewhat of a skin or sheet of dark material on the outside of the bulb. As we open the bulb there are layers and layers of scales. Each one of these will be a leaf. At the base is the basil plate. There is a distinct top and bottom to the bulb. On most bulbs there are also sides. There is a rounded side and a flat side. If planting in a container or against a brick walkway place the flat side against the edge of the container or against the face of the brick. That way the first leaf that comes out will emerge on the flat side and against the container or wall. In this instance the bulb also has a daughter bulb. It will eventually develop into little offshoots or bulblets that will eventually turn into another bulb.

When purchasing bulbs there are several considerations. The larger the bulb the larger the flower. If it is for a container, for a single display buy really large bulbs. If you're naturalizing them, using them in mass, go ahead and buy smaller or midsize bulbs. You'll save a little money and they will look just as good. Also consider the firmness of the bulb. They need to be turgid, firm. They shouldn't be mushy, squashy or have a bad odor.

B.J.'s backyard is very private. There is access only by a walkway from the front to the back. You must be invited. B.J. enjoys the serenity, beauty and privacy. To her it's a special place, she looks around and knows that it's between her and God. She knows he does it all and gives her the opportunity to be a part. It's a good place to think, to reflect.

Feeding Tulips is important. If treating them as annuals, understand the bulb has plenty of stored energy. If at the end of the bloom season, you're pulling them up they don't need a lot of fertilizer. On the other hand if you live in a part of the country where they're perennial and want them to come back year after year, it is a two part process. First when the bulbs pop up fertilize them with a 20-20-20. A garden feeder is a great way to do that. The fertilizer is mixed in with the water and it instantly provides a good amount of Nitrogen which is important for green leaves and strong stems. Once the flowers are spent it is a good idea to use a slow release fertilizer, the flower has used up all its' energy that was stored in the bulb. It's important to get more energy back into the bulb so it can come back year after year. A good fertilizer for this job is one with a high middle number, something like a 10-12-10. The second number is responsible for Phosphorus and is important for healthy root growth and for the bulb to be able to store energy during summer. So, once everything is spent, after its' faded a good general purpose slow release fertilizer is a good choice.

Don't be disappointed if Tulips don't come back from year to year. Sometimes they're short lived perennials, sometimes annuals. If you do live in a part of the country where they can come back and you want to encourage them to do so, after the flowers fall off it's important to leave the foliage exposed. They need sun. They can tolerate some shade but the leaves need to photosynthesize as much as possible. When they start to yellow, when they actually start to die, then cut them back.

Tulips are thirsty, they need adequate but not too much water. B.J. waters every two weeks if it hasn't rained. She makes sure that she waters at the base of the plant and not in the bowl. Water early in the morning so that the foliage and other parts will dry during the day. If the stems start to droop, if the flower starts to droop and won't stand up, it most likely needs water. Water it completely allowing the water to reach the roots.

Thanks B.J. for showing us your garden, it's beautiful. It has been a pleasure spending time with you.


Columbia Metropolitan

Whitney Hotel
SC Homes & Gardens magazine

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