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.

Tulips Arrange Themselves

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I have a love affair with tulips. There are a lot of reasons. One is probably because I can’t grow them. My soil is far too wet–and even if it weren’t, it’s a battle around here with deer and the heartbreaking idea that I had waited for my tulips to bloom, only to have them eaten just as they were about to open is not worth it–not when every bulb requires stabbing my heavy wet clay with a heavy steel trowel just to get that bulb in the ground.

So I buy a few bunches now and again and get my fix that way. I love that they continue to grow in the vase, changing their look.

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These tulips may not look so different in this different vase but they have been trimmed up substantially. This is what’s come off,

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So, now, newly refreshed, they’ll be able to grow–and ideally open up a little further–and provide a little cheer in this unusual time.

Spring’s Trying

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Despite the snow a few days ago–and despite the fact that it can snow here for another 6 weeks or so–spring is doing its best to cheer us up.

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The rose foliage is fairly far along for this time of year. Traditional planting for bare root roses–and pruning of traditional types–would be about the first week of April.

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This is a crabapple leafing out. All the fruit from last season hasn’t even been consumed by returning migratory birds yet.

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This is the bud of a dwarf Korean lilac. This usually blooms for me at the end of May. It seems as if it will be earlier this year.

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Finally this is my weeping cherry. It normally blooms before the crabapple. This year, who knows? It is always gorgeous when it does bloom.

Spring clearly is trying to help keep our spirits up!

Spring’s Progress

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On Friday these little bulbs were just green shoots on top of a stereo. You may remember that this is where I had a pink bulb and a white one in full color.

I also mentioned that I had brought 2 more up from the basement that had been started just a month ago.

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Here they are. They are already showing evidence of blooming in 4 weeks time. You may wonder how this can be, when the original bulbs took 8-9 weeks.

Two reasons. First these bulbs, although they weren’t planted, have been in the same cool spot as the others so they have been chilled for the same amount of time.

Next, we are closer to spring (even though spring comes in July in my climate–we’re still closer now than we were in November). And all plants, even bulbs, can tell that. So once they are given a signal to wake up, they do so more quickly than they do in November.

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My “white” amaryllis continues to be interesting. It’s probably more interesting than a plain white one would have been. So that turned into a gift, I suppose.

Next week I will be out of state. It will be interesting to see what the flowers of the south are doing.

A Taste of Spring

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Remember these?

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Here they are, in their full glory.

(Please disregard the background. It’s a Civil War artifact that belongs to the Spoiler. It was his family’s).

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And here are the next two, coming along right behind them. Spring bulbs in the dead of winter require a little planning. These were started Thanksgiving weekend (the last weekend of November for my non-United States readers).

Once I saw the above 2 coming along so nicely (the first photo), I started 2 more–roughly the last weekend in December as I recall. And as soon as these two bloomers finish up, I will start 2 more (I only have 6 forcing vases, so I kind of stagger the starting 2 at a time).

But this is the perfect time for all of these to start blooming. It’s when it’s the coldest here and when we are likely to have the most snow. It’s a full month before any of the flower shows start. It doesn’t get any better than this for me.

Oh, and did I mention hyacinths are fragrant? Ah, spring!