Whoops! Yesterday I found a bag of unplanted tulips in the shed... they were lifted from their pots last summer, and were supposed to have been sorted and re-planted in the autumn, but somehow they were overlooked. They are my favourite, Queen of the Night, too - very-nearly-black and lusciously shiny.
However, all is not lost, they can still be saved, if you are quick: the first job is to tip out each bagful, and check carefully for damaged or mouldy bulbs – as you can see from the first photo in the carousel above, mine are sprouting nicely, but that's ok, as they are using the energy they stored last year.
Anything the least bit mouldy goes in the bin, along with any loose outer skins (or tunics, as they are known) on the grounds that they are likely to rot once they are in the damp soil. I also went through the big bulbs, removing the small bulblets, as I want to grow them on separately.
Having picked out the biggest and best bulbs, I put in a good layer of shop-bought compost into the pots, packed down quite firmly: then I stood up the bulbs on the compost, starting the in the middle with the biggest bulbs, and working outwards. Having done that, I trickled more compost on from above, then using the ends of my fingers to work it around the bulbs without breaking the shoots.
Having filled each pot, I then labelled them and put them outside.
This left me with a big pile of small bulblets, and quite a lot of middle-sized ones which I don't think will be flowering yet, so I didn't want to put them in with the big bulbs.
Here is my cunning plan for growing them on - I lined a couple of mushroom trays with old compost bags, put in a layer of compost, then started stacking the bulbs in, packing them quite closely together. The second photo shows me just starting to add the bulbs.
By the time I got onto the second tray-full it was getting dark, so I'm afraid to admit that I just shovelled the smaller bulbs in, trusting them to send up their shoots in the right direction – this also made it easer to get the compost on top of them, without breaking their delicate new shoots.
One quick watering later, they were ready to leave outside.
They are already starting poke their noses above the top – and I'm intending to give them a helping hand with some foliar feed as soon as they have produced leaves, to make up for not having planted them more deeply.
Hopefully this will mean that I'll get a reasonable display from the bigger bulbs, and these smaller ones will get safely through their season. I can then lift and dry them again – they should all be a size larger by then, and this time I will make a note in my diary to check the shed more carefully next autumn!