Thinking About Bulbs

‘Though it is bulb planting time, well under way here in southeast Tennessee, the best time to think about what new bulbs might be needed to bring the Fairegarden vision to its pinnacle of perfection is when all of those previously planted bulbs are in bloom. Above: Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’.

That is when the pictorial archives, (and old blog posts) are the most valuable. Some of us are visual beings, we need to SEE IT, to understand better how to improve the plantings, be they bulbs, shrubs or stubs. (HA, did you like that last one?) Above: Hyacinth orientalis.

Notes are taken during the height of bulb-blooming-mania in spring, add more of these, need something taller here, need a different color there. Early bird discounts by the big mail order bulb houses are taken advantage of as orders are placed in May. Then the busy times during summer drive the thoughts of bulbs out of mind. Above: Tulipa ‘Little Princess’ and Tulipa ‘Little Beauty’.

At the proper planting time, mid-October here, the bulb orders start arriving. Notes are scanned to help us remember where these packages of promise were meant to be planted. Once everything is in the ground, the gardener becomes restless. There is still time to plant. We are lucky to be able to plant well into December here, for the ground does not freeze until much later, if at all and there will still be plenty of chill time for even those with the longest requirements, like Tulips, before the warmth returns to the soil. Above: Tulipa ‘Orange Emperor’. Note: More orange tulips have been planted on the other side of the path after looking at this photo.

We need more bulbs. Above: Unknown blue Hyacinth orientalis.

More, more, more is the rally cry. There can never be too many bulbs. Late season sales quicken a tightwad’s heart. How to know what to add, other than something not sold out? Check the photos. Use the zoom, see what is where. But keep in mind that every spring, just as the bulb blooms start to fade, there is manic moving, spreading about of the larger bulb clumps. Above: Crocus tommasinianus ‘Roseus’.

Most authorities advise on waiting until fall to dig and divide bulbs, but that is just crazy talk. Everything is invisible then! One cannot see where anything is, or how they relate to other things that might be blooming at the same time. A post was written about it, click here-How To Divide Daffodils to view it, if you are so inclined. Above: The left slope, March 7, 2011.

If the journal entries are not precise about what was divided and moved, and they never are, it is a roll of the dice to know exactly what bulb is lying in wait underground and where. Above: Allium karataviense at top, Allium bulgaricum, (I can’t keep up with the name changes on this one), along the lower wall.

And so more bulbs are ordered from the sale emails, more packaged bulbs are bought that have been marked down as nurseries and the big box stores make room for Christmas merchandise. They get planted with the best photo mapping information available as a guide. Above: The lawn/meadow, March 29, 2011.

Then we wait for spring. Above: Narcissus jonquilla simplex.


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16 Responses to Thinking About Bulbs

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I especially like the idea of hiding the stubs with the bulbs. Ha… Bulbs are such big players in the early spring. Seeing your photos makes me want to plant some more bulbs too.

    HA Lisa, thanks! Seeing these photos makes me want to plant even more, but I am done. I think. Dreams of spring blooms will dance in our heads…

  2. Such a nice display. The meadow is particularly gorgeous. I’ve copied your idea with my mini meadow. I hope to expand it this year.

    Thanks Helen. This year the lawn/meadow should look very good. Bulbs have been spread and more planted, using these photos as a guide. It is still a work in progress, but fun to fool around with. I would love to see yours!

  3. Frances, you are making me think spring! I put in another 100 Orange Emperor Tulips, hope the squirrels and the rabbits don’t get them. You are right, the photos help when planning for bulb beds.


    Good deal Eileen! Now is the time to think about spring, and 100 Orange Emperors will be fabulous! I have found that the squirrels and critters do not care for the metallic whirlygig children’s toys. Fifty cents at Walmart. I stick them in the ground after planting bulbs and so far, so good!

  4. Robin Ripley says:

    I need more bulbs! I only put in about 600 this year–many of them tiny tommies. Yours are gorgeous.

    Thanks Robin. It is a life’s work, planting bulbs, never ending for there are never enough! The tommies are so little, 100 fills about a square foot. Slight exaggeration, but not much.

  5. wish I could get my act together and plant more bulbs, but here in Connecticut, I may have missed my chance…. although we’ve been having some nice almost 60-60+ degree days here lately. your gardens are gorgeous. I especially love that daffodil hill with your sweet shed in the background. very pretty.

    Thanks Cindy. The weather sounds like you could make some quick holes for a few bulbs up there!

  6. It’s bulbalicious madness isn’t it? I love your tulips with your little angel above. Wish I’d seen that earlier. I might have bought more. Ha! No, never mind. I bought too many as it is.~~Dee

    Thanks Dee. It is too much fun, for there is no gardening act that holds as much promise as the planting of a bulb. Such an ugly thing, that makes such beautiful flowers. The little tulips are very sweet, but they bloom sort of late and if it is quite warm here, as it can be, they don’t last long. For us, the earlier the tulips bloom, the better.

  7. Carol says:

    I’m proud of myself because only once while planting bulbs this fall did I accidentally disturb other bulbs. More is never enough, is it?

    I am proud of you, as well, Carol. I cannot say the same, but always stick the severed bulb back in the ground and hope for the best. More is never enough, so true.

  8. Sheila says:

    You inspire me to get out today and plant the bulbs I’ve only been thinking out planting! Lovely photos, especially the last …

    Oh Sheila, that makes me so happy, to have inspired some more bulb planting! You’ll be so glad you did come spring.

  9. Kathleen says:

    I always want more too Frances! I LOVE Fairegarden in spring. It’s absolutely inspiring.
    ps I’ve been wondering about your pond ~ is it still there & I’ve missed the posts about it? I don’t recall seeing it lately?? probably me since I’m such a hit & miss blog visitor. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I wonder what great gifts you’ll be sending them home with this year??

    Thanks Kathleen, for those sweet words. Spring is a wonderful time here and each one is different with new bulbs and ones that have been divided that I forgot about. The pond is still going strong, although the water is now only bubbling up from the pump to keep the water from freezing and fishes happy. We will run it through the frog’s mouth and waterfall next spring when there is no danger of it freezing solid in the tubing. I must have neglected showing it, sorry! There are gifts for the family, to be revealed on Friday after they have been given out. You will like them!

  10. Lola says:

    Always room for one more. I keep trying to add to my gardens. A couple bulbs need to go in the ground.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours.

    Thanks Lola. Always room, yes. It is easy to be tempted when seeing them at the grocery, marked down. I resisted today since Thanksgiving was on my mind, but afterwards might add just a few more. You too, enjoy the holiday!

  11. Many bright ideas in your post! 🙂

    Voles ate just about everything except daffodils last year. I’ve sworn off bulb planting this fall …and am very sad about it. I hated losing hundreds of Dutch iris last year. I didn’t think voles would eat allium, but very few returned…maybe it was our southern heat for those. To enjoy bulbs, I’m going to have to take your advice and dig out a bed and line it with wire before planting….someday!

    Thanks Freda. Daffodils are the safest choice, although the squirrels will unearth them here, just not eat them. I have recently had good luck with the whirlygig children’s toys stuck in the ground. The critters don’t like the metallic or the movement. Some of the Alliums are not good at returning. They must bake and be dry over the summer. I am sorry about your losses.

  12. ricki says:

    I put chopstick stakes where new bulbs were needed. The beds were getting too tight to rely on photos. My other strategy is to plant in pots, then move them to permanent locations just as they finish blooming and I can see where they will show off to best advantage. I agree: there can never be too many bulbs, so we need to keep coming up with ways to squeeze in more.

    Good way to do it, Ricki, whatever works for you. I do buy prepotted bulbs in late winter, but the choices are so limited. The sales do draw the cash out of my pocketbook. More!

  13. Hehe, I have a few ‘stubs’ in need of replacing for spring. I need to do a better job of taking photographs of my problem areas in bloom. Sometimes I just don’t think to. Why photograph something that makes you cringe? You raise an interesting point though. Now that it’s fall, and toward the end of prime planting time here, I can’t remember exactly what it was I wanted to change, where! I’ll have to do better next spring. In the meantime, could you please explain to Mr. CV about the no-such-thing-as-too-many-bulbs thing? He doesn’t believe me when I say that 😉

    That’s exactly my problem, CV, not taking photos of stuff that is purty. But I have learned that the best way to see where something is planted is to take a photo of it, with some kind of landmark to measure by. My best advice for what to do about Mr. CV is to ignore his opinion and do what you dang well please! Just have a smile on your face when doing it.

  14. Rose says:

    I love the third image with the red and purple blooms under the cherub’s eye–what a beautiful little vignette! Taking photos in the spring is such a great idea–I finally did that this past year, and those rather boring photos that never made it into a blog post were very helpful in remembering the “blank” spots where more bulbs could be added. Still, I could use better records. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone invented a bulb-sensing tool, much like a metal detector, where you could figure out just where bulbs were already planted, so you didn’t accidentally dig into them in the fall?

    I agree–you can never have too many bulbs!

    Thanks Rose. That is a sweet corner of the garden, the gravesite of a dear departed feline, Basic Black. Sometimes we have to take photos that will never make it to the blog, but are for record keeping only. It is hard to remember as photos are culled to keep those! The photos are the best way I have to know what is where, but still dig into bulbs often. I just replant them and hope for the best.

  15. LOVE the Hyacinths 🙂 I’m in the middle of my move, and I wonder if I’m going to have enough patience to wait until spring to do any planting & see what comes up!!

    Good luck with your move, Emily! Perhaps you could plant things in containers while you wait to see what is already growing at the new place?

  16. Sue Ellen Knifley says:

    Thanks for the tip of looking at spring pictures to help locate where bulbs already are. I do tend to forget and I hate to dig into a planting. I also have some that need to be divided so I will be studying your method of moving before the foliage dies back. I gave in to the temptation to buy some more bulbs when I spotted them on sale this past Sunday. Alas it has been raining every since so hoping for a dry period before the ground freezes.
    Sue Ellen

    Hi Sue Ellen, thanks for visiting. It is very difficult to resist those marked down bulbs. I had to buy a small package today. HAD TO. Moving and dividing the bulbs while they are still green works very well for me. I have been doing it for years. How else to know where stuff is in a jungle of a garden?

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