The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Monday, March 8, 2010

First tulip of the season in New Hampshire

Tulipa protosflorum

Tulipa protosflorum literally means first flowering tulip. This tulip was given to me by a gardening friend and is always the first bulb to bloom in my garden after the snow melts in late winter. In fact, I find it to be one of the only species of tulip that blooms constantly in my garden throughout the year. Talk about a great plant.

Unfortunately, this hard to find bulb has no root system or photosynthesis capabilities. Worse yet, it is not alive. Tulipa protosflorum is in fact the result of a gardener's prank. Two years ago, someone placed this plant, in what looked like a pot, in Depot Park in Peterborough. Every week as the garden volunteers weeded the garden, we marveled at how long the tulip bloomed. About mid-July, I looked carefully at the plant and realized that it was in fact not alive at all. It was one of the most realistic artificial flowers I had ever seen. The volunteers decided to leave it in the garden but by the end of the September, it disappeared.

I didn't notice it again until the first hard frost and it emerged from the wilting foliage in my upper border. It took me several days of sleuthing to determine that Laura, one of the volunteers in the Peterborough Parks, had played a prank on me. I left the tulip in my garden and I had many passersby comment on it last fall and early winter. Now that the snow has melted, it is back.

Tulipa protosflorum is a reminder for me to keep having fun in the garden and to not take anything too seriously. A friendly prank can be just what is needed during the hustle-bustle gardening season. And who knows what Laura will find growing next in her garden? When she least, expects I will make a retaliatory strike!


  1. Dear Michael, I am much amused by this story. Life itself should not, I believe, be taken too seriously so why should gardening be any different?

  2. I saw your post with much frustration, thinking, "I left NH for Georgia, and they have tulips first this year!"

    Your post reminds me of an elderly friend, who can't garden as much as she once did. She now puts "seasonal silks" in her beds, and most of her neighbors have yet to catch on! They continue to comment on her beautiful flowers!

  3. Edith,
    Glad you were amused!

    I didn't realize you came from NH. Where did you live? I am from Philadelphia area and I sometimes envy the longer growing season; other times I think it is best that the season is short here so I don't die from exhaustion.



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