This past week, I chatted with a group of ladies who were all frustrated with their failure to get tulips to grow in their yards. All of them were great gardeners, but none of them could get a single tulip to poke out of the soil, let alone bloom.
After I asked the ladies the standard tulip questions, it was quite apparent that they had done everything correctly, and there was no apparent reason why they shouldn’t have had a glorious bed of tulip flowers.
Finally, I asked where they were growing their tulips thinking, perhaps, that they were growing them in a container and that the bulbs were freezing solid during the winter.
But the answer to that question was the last one I had expected. One of the ladies looked me in the eyes and simply said: Jamaica.
Jamaica? This one word answer instantly solved the problem.
Since tulips require several weeks of near freezing temperatures before they have the capacity to bloom, tropical Jamaica cannot provide the chilling required to transform a bulb to a flower. Since chilly weather in Jamaica is anything below, say, 20C, the bulbs were simply incapable of flowering.
In countries that lack cold weather, aficionados of plants like tulips have few choices but to place the bulbs in refrigerators for a number of weeks so that the chilling requirement of the bulbs is met. Once the bulbs are placed outside after their big chill, they will develop leaves and flowers as they would in more northerly climates. However, while the pre-chilled bulbs in growing in tropical climates emerge from the soil, the tropical heat shortens the blooming period and they never last as long as they do in more northerly climates.
I explained to the ladies – with tongue firmly in cheek - that, unfortunately, Jamaica didn’t have a very good climate.
Funny, they didn’t share my point of view.