Though fears of an unseasonable frost still linger, it’s safe to say spring has sprung in Nashville. If the blooming dogwoods aren’t enough to convince you, stroll through Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, currently dotted with 100,000 tulips in peak bloom. This annual tradition of tulip planting began with 50,000 bulbs, then grew to 85,000. The installation has doubled in size since its inception. Thanks to the dexterous green thumbs of Cheekwood gardeners, a plethora of pansies, daffodils, and other pretty perennials also decorate the lawns and walkways, creating a colorful feast for the senses.
The arrangement of the garden has been carefully curated by the Cheekwood staff who cleared away old pines along the gazebo to accommodate more flowers. The tulip population at Cheekwood features over forty different kinds of tulips which quilt the beds in a delicate gradation of textures and colors. The interplay between the bright blooms and the manicured lawns is moving, no doubt. Each bed of tulips hugs the pathways through the garden, gracefully guiding patrons from one bunch to the next. The tulips extend from the front entrance to the foot of the Cheekwood’s mansion providing an unexpectedly poignant preface to such a stately structure.
But how does one procure such pretty petals from backyard soil that rarely receives such royal treatment? Novice nurserymen like me will be pleased to know that Senior VP of Gardens, Patrick Larkin, will lead a Lunch & Lecture event entitled Bulbs Bonanza on Thursday, April 17 at Cheekwood’s Botanical Hall. Patrick will speak on the versatility of bulbs and how to incorporate them into your home gardens. Lunch & Lecture is a monthly lecture series that features fabulous food and talks on trending topics related to art, gardening, and more.
But for those of you who are savvy sowers, here are some tulip tips for optimum growth. Tulips are perennial flowers, but local gardeners tend to treat them as annuals because of soil conditions in this region. They should be planted in the fall, ideally 6 to 8 weeks before the first hard frost is anticipated. Tulips do best when planted in beds, borders, and along pathways. Tulips thrive in areas with cold winters and dry summers. Wet and sodden soil is detrimental to tulip growth, so be sure to avoid planting your bulbs near irrigation systems. Water your blooms right after planting to catalyze growth. Otherwise, only water them during dry spells.
Other fun facts about this fabulous flower:
- Tulips were first brought to Turkey by nomadic tribes. From there, they spread across the Roman Empire as a popular trade commodity and are now cultivated across the globe.
- There are over 3,000 named varieties of tulips
- Tulips are rated as the thirds most popular flower in the world after roses and chrysanthemums.
- The tulip is the national flower of Turkey.
- The tulip is commonly used in art and literature as a symbol of indulgence and abundance.
Tulips do well as cut flowers. To extend vase life, cut the stems on the diagonal, wrap them in newspaper and place in cool water. Re-clip the stems after a week and your blooms should last for several more weeks. Tulips are popular for bridal bouquets, but they can also be used in casual arrangements and DIY décor. Fill a mason jar or jam jar with a mix of tulips and wild flowers for an easy but elegant tabletop accent.
The Cheekwood tulips, with the help of gorgeous weather, drew large crowds this past weekend. Locals and tourists alike strolled the pathways in awe of the bountiful blooms. A perfect backdrop for weekend merriment, the Cheekwood lawns were dotted with families frolicking and lovers lunching with picnic baskets and quilts in tow. In addition to the Lunch & Lecture series, Cheekwood coordinates public programs that integrate arts and education into their garden installations. This Saturday, Cheekwood will feature Family Studio Drop-In “Art-ivities,” an all-ages event that invites participants to create springtime inspired artwork. Cheekwood is also excited to announce that live jazz will be featured in the herb garden thanks to the Nashville Jazz Workshop Ensemble. And if you fancy flowers and folklore, check out the Garden & Tales event which explores song and dance through garden themed books.
Cheekwood Museum is home to amazing art, and has curated countless exhibits that reflect the bounty of botany outside its doors. Coming to Cheekwood in June is Andy Warhol’s Flowers, a series of silkscreen paintings begun in 1964. The modish prints are undoubtedly delicate, but are a symbol of the fervent “flower-power” years. Poignant and provocative, this print series poses progressive imagery amidst Cheekwood’s historic setting, inspiring dynamic dialogue between the two.
The Cheekwood tulips are nearing the end of their glory in the gardens. Don’t wait to catch a glimpse of the beautiful buds before the next seasonal selection takes the soil!