There are seven tall tulip plants around here.
Once there were more of them, because a small child and I planted a whole row along part of the picket fence, but now only the ones at each end of that row remain. I KNOW where the child is —adrift in the emotional and hormonal No-Man’s-Land of middle school— but what happened to the tulips?
Do tulips self-destruct?
Or perhaps one moonless night in winter someone came into my seriously unfortified garden wearing a headlamp and carrying a very sharp and narrow shovel with maybe a Tulip Detector device on the handle, and this person silently and creepily dug up the middle section of the tulip row.
This could have happened. But if it did then she/he evidently failed to fully charge up the detector batteries because she/he missed the bulbs at the ends of the row.
Anyway, the overlooked (or the deliberately left or the over-achieving) tulips at each end of the original row have grown to become three-bloom tulip clumps, so I count them as six plants now.
Every year when they bloom I consider how I might plant more clumps elsewhere along the fence for next year but I don’t, and there is a reason for this: I believe more tulips would be less effective, in a design sense, than these two clumps which so perfectly punctuate the sentence that is this portion of the picket fence bed.
(If that last comment seems questionable then it’s likely you’ve neglected to read the 1922 classic volume Rationalize Your Garden, by Gertrude Hyde– get it on your Kindle right away before you become even further behind in your garden planning especially if you can’t make up stuff fast.)
So that accounts for six of my seven tulips.
Here is the seventh one.
Some gardener who lived here before me planted this tulip. This plant appears every spring in a bed by the front porch, and it has done this for thirty years. It never multiplies and it typically looks a little disheveled, like it went out the door before it had time to put itself completely together–but it always shows up.
Then I usually forget about it.
And some years I have gone through that bed, digging in compost and planting new delphiniums or phlox plants or ferns or azaleas or heaven knows what else. That single tulip must have a bulb that has hidden itself so deep it’s about ready to turn around and grow out the other side of the planet. (Unfortunately if it does that it will likely drown in the Indian Ocean according to my calculations drawn from the Antipodes Map.)
Then I think that if I could get really scientific about it (might need a white lab jacket) I could perhaps distill some potent elixir of life from this tulip and make a cordial or something to sip on, and maybe I could sell the patent to some horrible maniacal drug company or even to Microsoft because I bet they could digitize it and put it on a flash drive or something and then we could all be as enduring as this tulip if we could afford the purchase price–kind of like the rest of the American health care system.
Now, moving along down the picket fence bed, we come to Rhododendron “Unique” which is blooming today.
Really I just wanted to show off that I kept track of the name.