All Bulbs All the Time

Since I was posting about other things in January, I really haven’t had an opportunity to post about gardening at all.

These are my hyacinths that I started forcing Thanksgiving weekend. They’re now all beginning to open (the lack of color in the leaves is because I just brought them up from the dark basement).

Here’s one of the purple ones already open

And then there are the amaryllis. This is Charisma.

And this is Amadeus.

To me, these all make up for the indignities of winter–almost.

Waves of Plants

Herbs and tender evergreens

it’s kind of funny–my plants come in in “waves,” as l call it. And people who know me will periodically ask, “are all your plants in? They have no idea what they are asking!

The tropical plants, or house plants, are all in because it is getting quite cool here. It’s down to the mid 40s this morning. So the 200 or so tropical plants are safely inside and have been for the last 3 weeks. I will talk more about my theory on that–and some other theories–on Monday.

Amaryllis bulbs

Then there are these: amaryllis bulbs. They should be drying out before I bring them into the basement for winter. I may have to bring them in when they are wetter than I care for them to be. I should have brought them in this past weekend but I was too busy pruning dead stuff off my other plants because of our summer drought.

Then I have the plants that come into the sun porch–that’s the photo at the head of this post. These herbs and “tender” evergreens can take some cold, but not New England cold. They will need to come in before a hard freeze.

Container succulents

And then there are my containers that also will need to come in before a hard freeze because, as a general rule, container plants can’t be left to over-winter outside here. These are things like potted succulents that would be hardy if I were growing them in the ground, blueberries in containers, and plants that everyone else thinks are appropriate to plant in the fall like hydrangeas and roses so they ship them to me but if I were to try to plant them now, they would die–so I have to overwinter them in my garage.

So the “are all your plants in?” question is hugely complicated!

Springing Ahead

Glory of the snow–chionodoxa bulbs

Spring in Connecticut is always a “one step forward, two steps back,” sort of thing. This week we have actually had a few days of sustained warmth, which has been lovely.

Snow fountain cherry tree

It’s allowed some of the early spring flowering trees to bloom. For those of you that think late April is a strange time for “early” spring bloom, we have very strange springs here in Connecticut. While autumn has become an extended period of warmth, spring has not changed accordingly. Instead, it is an extended period of cool weather, sometimes dry, sometimes wet, sometimes snowy even. It’s not a very pleasant season at all.

Pieris Andromeda–blooming since mid-March

But one thing that the extended cool weather does permit is an extended bloom time as well. Bulbs that might bloom for days in warmer temperatures are lasting for weeks.


Flowering trees and shrubs–even that old stalwart, forsythia–also bloom for close to a month!

And the less frequently seen forsythia border

So while we may shiver for a longer period of time up here in the frozen north, we also get to experience our early blooming trees and shrubs for quite a long time.

Since I hate the cold, I am not sure the tradeoff is worth it. But then again, since I am always so grateful to see the first flowers and color, perhaps it is.

February Flowers–Hyacinths

Forced hyacinths

Since February is a short month–and one that, at least in my part of the world is cold, gray and nasty!– I thought I would bring a little color and joy to my blog with something I will call “February Flowers.”

As a general rule, I don’t talk about flowers much, particularly when it comes to indoor plants. I am more apt to focus on beautiful leaves–which last a lot longer, and sometimes can be showier than flowers anyway.

But since I literally branched out and did something different with #bloganuary, I thought I would try something different–although still in my traditional gardening vein–for February as well. So let’s do it!

The photo above is of my hyacinths that I started forcing Thanksgiving weekend. They are beginning to come into bloom now, and what’s interesting is that I started 9 of them at the same time and only these 3 are ready–and even these 3 are not even ready at the same time. They have all been kept in the same place at the same temperature so that is not the issue. I guess bulbs have their own internal clock, particularly when being forced. That makes what the growers do at all these indoor flower shows all the more impressive!

Mini daffodils

I always supplement my own forcing with whatever’s available at the market because I am always starved for color this time of year. And for whatever reason, I usually want to buy cut tulips and they have been few and far between this year, making these cute little yellow daffodils all the more welcome!

Spring in a Glass

Forced bulbs

You have seen some of my bulbs earlier this season when I posted very short white hyacinth and talked about how they had gotten an inadequate period of cold so they hadn’t elongated properly.

This white bulb looks slightly better. It’s not as tall as the purple one but it’s not stuck down in the bulb like my first ones were in early January. It’s actually taller than it looks in the photo.

And full disclosure–I bought the small narcissus bulb–the yellow ‘Gaza’ with the tiny multiple blooms. It looks great with the hyacinths and just makes me smile every time I see it.

Forcing bulbs, particularly the fragrant hyacinths, is one of the ways that I get through the very long winters in my cold part of the country. You have to do what makes you happy, particularly as we struggle to emerge from the pandemic.

For more information on hyacinths, you can always see this fact sheet from the National Garden Bureau. They have designated 2021 as the Year of the Hyacinth (among other things). 

I Can’t Wait To Plant!

Some of my seed and plant catalogs

Well, that didn’t take long.

All you have to do is to look back at my post on January 1 of this year. What I said then was that I thought my gardening in 2021 would be fairly scaled back, as my gardening in 2020 had been.

Apparently though, I underestimated my “pent up” gardening demand.

It’s as if something happened. I am not sure if it was the couple of snows at the end of January and in early February, or what quite happened, but it was as if the “gardening” switch in my brain suddenly got turned on to hyper drive. I can’t wait to plant!

I am poring over catalogs to see what I might want to add to the garden. I am trying to decide how I might incorporate edibles with the copious critter problem that I have. I am planning different container designs (always a favorite thing to do).

I am attending Zoom lectures about different gardening techniques, growing mushrooms from a kit in my kitchen (and that is a story for another day!), and going to webinars about what the plant breeders are doing—one of my favorite topics anyway.

When I am out walking my dog, as she sniffs around my garden beds, I am eyeing them critically to see what can be added, what can be pruned and what can be changed. I’ve already had a little tree pruning done and I plan to do a little more if the weather permits.

Those of you who remember my “sustainable” articles from earlier years know that I am not one to clean up my garden beds too early because I want to ensure that the beneficial insects have plenty of time to survive—so about all I can do outside is prune on warmish days. And while I do love to prune, there’s a limit to how creative that can be.

Fortunately, I am restraining myself from buying (right now, at least) because, well, who knows? We are still in the middle of this pandemic and the last thing I want to happen is to have boxes of plants to arrive when I am unable to care for them.

But it’s such a joy to look at the new plants and to dream! Hope springs eternal!

The Saga of the White Amaryllis Continues

Amaryllis White Nymph

Okay, I shouldn’t be complaining–and really, I am not. I bought a white amaryllis and it’s blooming white. So already I am so far ahead of last year when my white amaryllis was some funky red bicolor.

Further, it appears that this bulb will have 3 blooms–2 of the usual sort and then this creative thing coming out of its base. So I am way ahead of the game.

If I actually look at it artistically, it appears as if someone–not me, because I never could have come up with this idea–creatively draped this bloom in the pot. But no! It’s actually attached to the bulb, and blooming sideways out of the base. Very strange.

This is what makes gardening great. Plants just never lose the ability to surprise and delight. This is way better than I ever planned!

If You Want Tulips and Daffodils, Plant Now!

Bulb Catalogs

In gardening, certain things can be put off and certain things cannot. The earth will not stop spinning if you decide that you’re not going to weed for a day–or a week–or even a month. Yes, there may be consequences. As the old saying goes, one year’s weed seeds, 7 years’ weeds.

But if you don’t plant bulbs in the fall, you will not have spring flowering bulbs. And it’s easy to think, “well, I will just buy pots of tulips or daffodils or hyacinths,”–fill in your favorite bulbs–and then plant them–but it’s not as easy to do. Because they come with the foliage (leaves) already attached, you have to let those leaves die off, then plant the bulbs to get them down to the proper depth. By then, it’s early summer–and who wants to leave a patch of earth bare so that you can insert your bulbs then? No, much easier to plant them now.

So what to do? Is it too late to order them from a catalog? Maybe. True bulb lovers began ordering in July, when the bulbs catalogs came out. But there are still some great choices left. You might not get your first choice, but you will get some good ones.

By the way, you might have noticed, my decided preference for Connecticut bulb companies. That surely doesn’t mean that these are the only good companies–it means that these were the immediate catalogs I could grab when I wanted a photo (and yes, incidentally, I did place orders from these growers this year. It just a version of shopping local).

But these are by no means the only excellent bulb companies. I also ordered from Brent and Becky’s bulbs, another wonderful company whose catalog just wasn’t quite as nearby. And no, I get nothing for saying anything about these companies–I just happen to like them.

Can you go to a box store or supermarket and buy them? Yes. But the catalog bulbs are more varied in choice and generally are larger as well.

What’s the point of a larger bulb? Remember, a bulb is just a “storage unit” for the flowers. It contains the energy that the plant needs to product flowers and stems. The larger the bulb, the more prolific the flowers and stems.

If you are someone that needs instant gratification, the next best place to get your bulbs is at a garden center. They generally buy from specialty bulb farms so again, your bulbs will be larger. You’ll also have a larger selection than just tulips and daffodils and the bulb packages will likely have better information (although not always). You’ll also have access to garden center employees who can answer your questions if you have issues with critters or difficult soil.

There are so many bulbs–literally thousands of different kinds–that if one or two types haven’t worked for you, you should definitely find a garden center and try others. Ask for help. Bulbs are a true joy.

And as it gets later in the season, look for sales and close-outs and try some for forcing. You’ll see my posts later this year about forcing hyacinths. I do it all winter. It gets me through the cold, icy and bleak days from November through April.