Spring Bulbs: To Plant or not to Plant?

River of Hyacinth FlowerThat is the question. The answer: it’s complicated.  I’m perusing the Fall Netherland Bulb Company catalog this morning.  It arrived about a month ago, far too early to take it seriously.  Now that fall approaches, I’m giving it a second glance.  Years ago I planted several bulb varieties from Costco. Either I made the beginners mistake of planting them all upside down, or they didn’t like our soil.  Not a single one came up!  Perhaps a squirrel dug them up behind my back, but I never saw evidence of that.

I know many bulbs need frost first, then a proper thaw to get them going.  Was it foolish to assume that bulbs sold in our town would actually grow in our temperate climate?

One year a friend gave me a pot of paper white Narcissus.  Once the plant was spent indoors, I transplanted the bulbs outside.  Do you know what happened?  Nothing.

As I gaze lovingly at the ‘Tulip Fat Tuesday Blend,’ I can picture the purple and yellow blooms scattered all over my yard. Further on, they’ve dedicated a page to  ‘Darwin Hybrids’, including Tulip Beauty of Spring. The petals remind me of a fresh peach.

The most intoxicating of all bulbs are the Hyacinth. Their scent makes me giddy. I received my first Hyacinth as a Christmas present from Mom. I grew it indoors in a glass jar. I still remember the beginning of the transformation and that incredible smell when it bloomed. Planting something with evocative memories isn’t always a good thing. Tied up with the memory of that flowering bulb are things I would like to leave in the past.

So, to plant or not to plant? The icon on the cover says “Bulbs: dig, drop,done.™”  They don’t know the half of it.

Hyacinth orientalis ‘Blue Jacket’, exactly as I remember mine.

7 thoughts on “Spring Bulbs: To Plant or not to Plant?

  1. Bulbs are so forgiving, even upside down you will get SOME to twist around and come up. I don’t even bother to refrigerate, and most of mine come up anyway. Maybe you are planting too deep, but you would have to drop them in a well for all of them to fail. My feeling is that something has dug yours up. Probably you are going to have to protect them from critters. I stick with Costco and Ace hardware cheapies and plant a few new ones each year.

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  2. I’ve had mixed success with fall bulbs. My favorite was a tulip called Angelique. Shorter, blush pink, frilly. It worked well in my spring garden (Our house was Burgundy in color). I also planted a mass of yellow & pink, late bloomers on the lake front, they’d bloom along with the mauve lilac. But I was always adding more every fall. I don’t know why they fail, but sometimes there wasn’t anything to dig up. Our capital, Ottawa actually has a ‘Tulip Festival’, they are planted in mass for an amazing show. Here’s a pic.
    http://www.ottawatourism.ca/en/visitors/top-attractions/canadian-tulip-festival
    Like you, I do love the scent of Hyacinth, but even though you link indicates Zone 2, they never came back the next year. Don’t give up! That photo is amazing, what would that cost…yikes.

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    • Wow! 300,000 blooms. That must be amazing to see in person. The photos are gorgeous. Have you ever been?

      I think sometimes the bulbs simply rot int he ground. Given how dark and dank it is, that must contribute to their demise.

      I can just picture the pink flowering bulbs against your burgundy house. Stunning!

      Perhaps I’ll try planting bulbs in the winter vegetable beds. If I cover them till spring, the critters will have trouble digging them up. Food for thought.

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      • My sweet cous Sherri lives in Ottawa, her & hubby own a bike shop (bicycle), I haven’t gotten my act together to get there at the right time of year….soon I hope. I think bulb dust helps, I’m not sure with your kitties in the yard. Or, plant 2 – 3 times more than you hope for and the possiblity of an amazing show increases.

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        • I’ve received so much encouragement in reply to this post, that I may reconsider. I’ll have to do a little research to come up with some organic ways to discourage the digging, or figure out a reasonable barrier. Hmmmm. Lots to think about.

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  3. Pingback: Spring Bulbs: My Flowery Future Awaits | gardeningnirvana

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