The War Of the…Tulips

While things may seem relatively peaceful these days, at our home in the city we are fighting a war.

Last fall, in an attempt to postpone the coning winter, I ordered ten new colourful tulip bulbs. The name, “Orange Emperor,” had caught my attention. I waited patiently for them to arrive in the mail, but after a while I checked the catalogue and learned that the bulbs would only be shipped to me when it was safe to plant them. These tulips were going to be very fussy.

Finally the big day arrived. I carefully removed the promising bulbs from their packaging and, following the instructions, dug down 8 inches, added some coarse gravel for drainage, and then some good potting soil. Nothing but the best for my new tulips. I watered them carefully according to their schedule, until it was time for nature to take over. I tearfully said good-bye and told them to have a good winter. Then I promptly forgot about them.

About 10 days ago I noticed some strange leaves popping up – similar in shape to other tulip leaves, but with burgundy stripes. What could they be? Then I remembered my Orange Emperors – a lovely surprise in the middle of a pandemic. I watched them as they grew taller and started to show some colour. There was one that was clearly ahead of the pack; I could detect orange petals! One more day of sunshine, I thought, and it would be in full bloom. I went to bed as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.

Early the next morning I put on my housecoat, grabbed my phone, and rushed out to photograph this beauty. It was gone. No tell-tale petals anywhere. Only a stem remained. My tulip had been beheaded. I looked around and saw the carnage: two other tulips that had been about to bloom were headless too. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a black squirrel running past. He had a guilty look on his face and telltale orange on his lips. Honest!

Now I know some readers were upset by a recent post where I lambasted a skunk for digging up our back lawn as he was hunting for grubs. Some readers were upset when Peter threw baseballs at him. Some readers were quick to point out that skunks kill a lot of harmful insects. Well OK but who could possibly defend a nasty squirrel eating the tops off those gorgeous tulips?

I searched the internet for weapons. I read that human hair around the base of the plants works. We certainly have lots of extra human hair right now, if only we were brave enough to cut it. Another useful deterrent is garlic. Being married to an Italian, I always have access to garlic, in the fridge and in the garden, but unfortunately not planted near the tulips. The best defense, according to one site, is a spray called “Super Hunter,” also super expensive at $17 a bottle – more than the cost of the bulbs themselves! But in a war, no price is too high.

Meanwhile, Peter searched the garage and found something we used to chase creatures from our vegetable garden in the country. Called a “Scarecrow,” this gadget with a motion detector gets hooked up to a hose. When the creatures walk by they set off a sprinkler and get sprayed. That’s the idea anyway. All I know is that our grandchildren love running through it.

So now we are fully armed, with spray and Scarecrow, on a mission to save our remaining 7 tulips. But if they fail, we’ll have to resort to 24-hour surveillance. I’m not sure how long Peter will last sleeping outside on the swing, especially when the temperature gets below zero. So if you know anyone out of work, I might have the perfect job.


My Orange Emperor – before beheading

6 thoughts on “The War Of the…Tulips

  1. Blood meal is the answer Sue!

    Sprinkle the pre-flowering tulips with powdered blood meal, and continue after each rain. It’s a fertilizer and keeps those marauding squirrels away!

    Good luck.


  2. Those dang squirrels! No appreciation of beauty. Only thinking of themselves. Good luck with this war!


  3. I am sorry that people gave you a hard time about skunks. But any rodent is not a friend to a gardener. The tulip looks stunning. Love the variegate leaves. Waiting for a photo of one open when you are successful in your war.


  4. Never give up Sue!! I have to admit I did years ago. It seemed the squirrels hid and watched and waited for me to plant my bulbs each year then dig them out of my planters the same night. That was Enough was enough for me. Soon I am going to call this place ‘Hosta House‘ as I split more and more hostas and have them everywhere. They seem pretty hardy and resilient. Hopefully there will be no big attack of some kind on them or I will be in a lot of trouble with empty flower beds. Think most of the garden is in shape and I have spent quite a lot of time moving things around. Now for the big arrival of the new hut. I think it’s tomorrow. 😀😀 someone will be happy. I’m off to do a little more weeding. Weather is quite pleasant but still a cold wind. Happy whatever you are doing😀😀 Preston will be 10 tomorrow so H. made him a nice card on the computer into which we will put his $$s! We usually go around for birthday cake. Maybe if weather nice we can still do it in the garden social distancing. Bye for now Moira.

    Sent from my iPhone



  5. You’re very brave, Sue, to invest in tulips. Toronto squirrels are notorious for beheading tulips. Bill and I gave up and planted daffodils instead, because for some reason, squirrels leave them alone.


  6. All our tulips got nipped also…first time it happened…rather shocking. We just went to the nursery and put up five planters so feels and looks much better….ruth


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