Cape Gazette
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Garden Journal

Tulip Ice Cream is a new, stunning beauty

By Paul Barbano | Sep 25, 2013
Ice cream has come to the garden. Tulip Ice Cream is a new late-flowering double tulip.

Favorite foods, like favorite flowers, often reach far back in time. Take ice cream.  Even though ice cream dates back to the 19th century, the ice cream cone really took off at the Saint Louis World's Fair in 1904. Legend has it that an ice cream seller ran out of cardboard ice cream dishes and turned to a neighboring booth, a Syrian waffle seller, who made edible cones by rolling up his waffles.

Now ice cream comes to the garden. Tulip Ice Cream is a new late-flowering double tulip.

It has enormous blooms of dark pink with a creamy white top. The huge blooms hide inside long buds that open to rounded, oversized flowers with a blend of pale yellow and streaks of pink that combine to truly resemble a raspberry sundae.

Tulip Ice Cream blooms late in the tulip season, usually in the middle of spring. The strong 14- to 16-inch stems are perfect for cutting, and the full blooms are outstanding in a vase.

When the buds first appear, they look darker than they really are, because the outer petals have streaks of green and pink feathering.

The softer-colored inner petals show much lighter once the flowers are fully open. The effect is quite stunning.

Plant Ice Cream bulbs in the fall in an area that gets full sun for at least half of the day. These bulbs are hardy in USDA zones 4-8. Tulip bulbs need a well-drained soil. If your soil is sandy, add organic matter such as peat moss. The ideal soil pH is 6.0 to 6.5. If you can't plant your bulbs right away, keep them cool (below 65 degrees) until ready to plant.

You can find Ice Cream tulip bulbs at local nurseries or form specialty growers such as American Meadows (www.americanmeadows.com or 877-309-7333) or Burpee (www.Burpee.com or 800-888-1447.)

Ice Cream tulips look best planted in informal groups of 10 or as a solid block of at least 20 or more bulbs set just a few inches apart. This will give you a mass of color. If you are planting them for cutting you can grow a separate "cutting garden" and plant them in rows.

Dig the soil down to a depth of one foot.

You can mix in a good organic bulb fertilizer. Place the tulip bulbs pointed end up about six inches deep.

Once the ground has frozen, you can add mulch to keep the ground from freezing and thawing, which can actually heave the bulbs out of the ground.

Your tulips will bloom best the first spring after planting, so you may want to dig them up and plant new bulbs every year. To try to keep your Ice Cream tulips coming back, fertilize them every fall and again in early spring. To encourage them to bloom again in later years, cut back the faded flower stalk after blooming, but be sure to let the leaves die naturally so they can store energy for the next year's blooms.

Whether your Ice Cream tulips come back every year or not, like an ice cream on a hot day, they are reason enough to grow even for a single season.

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