Tulips hit peak in Memorial Garden in Concord
Friday, Apr. 11, 2014

Tulips hit peak in Memorial Garden in Concord

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    Different species and varieties of flowers line a brick wall at Memorial Garden during the peak blooming season.
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    This year the Memorial Garden staff planted different varieties along with the traditional red General Eisenhower tulips in the main flower bed.
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    Jessica Cannon, left, has her picture taken by Jackie Rains beside the goldfish fountain and waterfall at Memorial Garden on April 8. It’s a popular spot for photos.
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    Raindrops cover the surface of a tulip petal that had fallen to the grass in Memorial Garden.
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    A insect rests on a dogwood blossom at Memorial Garden.
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    This Clivia lily is 35 years old and in bloom at Memorial Garden in Concord.
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    Denae Ayers walks through the assorted tulips near the goldfish fountain and waterfall April 8. Ayers was visiting Memorial Garden in Concord for the first time, on her lunch break with co-workers, and brought her camera along to take pictures.
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    Memorial Garden, a 3-acre historic garden and cemetery, belongs to First Presbyterian Church of Concord. It is at 50 Spring St. S.W., Concord. It is open to visitors 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1-5:30 p.m. Sundays. The garden is closed on Mondays.

He can’t control or predict when the tulips will peak each year.

But Ronnie Goforth, garden manager of Memorial Garden in Concord, works for months to make that moment of profuse beauty match up with Easter.

He plants the bulbs in November, and it’s a gamble how it will work out four or five months later.

The tulips will not be at their peak this Easter, however, because of the late date of the observance and the fluctuating weather this spring.

“It is really hard, because Easter changes dates every year,” said Goforth, “but the tulips pretty much bloom at the same time, with your early varieties blooming in late March and your late varieties blooming around the second week in April.”

Goforth said he tries to match the varieties to the date. If Easter will be early, then in the fall he plants mostly early-blooming varieties in the main beds. If Easter is later, he plants mostly late-blooming varieties.

He still plants other varieties, calculated to make the blooming period last longer.

This year, instead of the traditional General Eisenhower red tulips, he planted five varieties of Impression Mix tulips in the main flower bed at the bottom of the garden.

Impression Mix tulips come in varying shades, but they all match in when they bloom, the shape of their blossoms and the length of their stems.

In the other beds he planted varieties that bloom at various times but have the same color. That gives some guests the impression that his tulips last longer than the ones they had planted at home, he said.

Along with the tulips, the garden – a two-century-old cemetery – has flowering trees, vines and other perennials that will keep the garden beautifully decorated once the tulips are spent.

Goforth and his assistant, Robert Jolly, start planting the approximately 17,000 bulbs during the first week in November. It takes about a month to plant them all. The rest is up to time, temperature and sunlight, he said.

“The growth of the tulip is determined by soil and air temperatures. They must have about 12 weeks of cold soil temperatures, and when the soil starts to warm up, they start to grow,” Goforth said.

“Eventually the shoot with some foliage will pop out of the ground when the soil temperature is right. And then, when they have the right length of daylight, the buds will begin to form.

“Air temperature will make the bloom open. … The bloom usually lasts up to two weeks; longer if the days are cool but shorter if they are exposed to hot days,” said Goforth.

When the tulips are spent, Goforth and Jolly will pull all the bulbs and donate them to local schools. Once the bulbs are removed, the beds are worked and re-planted with the annuals that will continue to splash color throughout the garden in late spring and summer.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at mprice1@vnet.net.

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