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