Emerging Bulbs and Weather Woes

The weather forecasters say it’s too early to cry “drought”, but it’s shaping up to be a dry, warm winter.

San Jose’s climate is semi-arid averaging a mere 15 inches (38 cm) a year. Most of our rain falls between October and March.  As we head into mid-February, there isn’t a drop in the forecast. It’s also been unseasonably warm.

Weather Report February 2018

Source: San Jose Mercury News The black dots represent record highs and lows for that date. As you can see we’re near or over those records.

It might seem uncharitable objecting to a series of warm, clear days when it would otherwise be cold and windy, but after a year of brutal wildfires, these conditions do not bode well for the months ahead. We shall see.

Garden patio potted plants

Garden patio steps: cyclamen, azalea, succulents (in pots), New Zealand flax and anemone in the background

This morning I spotted a self-seeded tomato that has already shot up in one of the planting beds.  I wouldn’t normally plant tomatoes before April. It’s all a bit surreal.

The daffodils (narcissus) are coming up. I can’t think of a more cheerful flower, breaking ground with their strong, green stems, then unfolding their yellow perfection.

daffodil budding

Daffodil just before opening

lemon yellow daffodil

Lemon yellow daffodil

Daffodil 'Ice Follies'

Daffodil ‘Ice Follies’

I love A.A. Milne’s poem When We Were Young:

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

I play a little game with myself in November. I buy a few bags of bulbs, then plant them in random pots, beds and corners of the garden and forget about them. I’ve learned over the years what grows well (daffodils, iris, Calendula, hyacinth and freesia) and what to skip (tulips). Daffodils survive because they’re toxic to squirrels. They leave them planted deep in the ground. The freesia do an amazing job spreading each year, producing bigger and more productive plants each season.

I added to my hyacinth bulbs last year and they’re coming up in succession instead of all at once. They’re intoxicating.

Orientalis hyacinth Pink Pearl

Orientalis hyacinth Pink Pearl

Orientalis hyacinth

Orientalis hyacinth in full bloom

Orientalis Hyacinth 'Aida'

Any day now, this Orientalis Hyacinth ‘Aida’ well emerge in purple splendor

A year ago I planted Ranunculus. The name comes from the Late Latin term for “little frog”. I had mixed success. They are so pretty, that I gave it another go. The first year, the squirrels kept digging them up and tossing them on the deck. They were interesting enough to unearth, apparently, but not good enough to eat. Last fall I planted them after filling one of my Earthboxes with cyclamen and (name escapes me) a white trailing plant. That did the trick and they’re all up in beautiful, leafy plants.

Emerging Ranunculus

Emerging Ranunculus

My trusty guide when trying to remember when to capitalize the plants name (daffodils, no, Ranunculus, yes). Source: When should you capitalize plant names

Drizzle, Fizzle

Our ‘chance of rain’ was a tiny drizzle in the middle of the night. San Jose saw 0.01″ in the past 24 hours.  No puddle splashing for me today.

On the bright side, the garden looks refreshed.  The fog, mist and drizzle freshened up the foliage so that’s something.

Here’s what I saw on my morning rounds.

I mentioned a random bulb growing out of the bottom of the vegetable bed last week.  The lovely Narcissus made her debut yesterday.

narcissus

Narcissus

I need to prune this four-in-one fruit tree but I’ve been putting it off. It’s grown tall so I need a ladder. Two years ago I fell off the ladder trying to cover the tree with netting, and I’ve been nervous about it ever since.

fruit tree buds

Raindrops on tree buds

I see little blueberry buds. Sweet!

Blueberry buds

Blueberry buds

Succulents need very little water. I haven’t watered these plants in months.

Flowering succulent

Flowering succulent

Silver drops

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass [as if], it’s about learning to dance in the rain. Vivian Greene

Narcissus and Freesia

bulb packets

Bulb Packets

Hopefully I’m not too late. The cliché “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is at work in my garden.

Today I planted nearly 75 bulbs, 50 Yellow Trumpet Narcissus and 24 Single Mix Freesia. The preferred planting time is November through December.  We’re mid-way through January so I’m a teeny bit behind schedule. No matter. They’re in the ground now, a nice six inches below soil level. All these years of gardening and I’m still amazed that you can bury a bulb that deep. Their internal programming tells them when to pop up and where. If you plant one upside down, they’ll simple make a u-turn and grow up towards the sun anyway.

The narcissus will put on a show early to mid spring. They’re planted broadcast style in the curb garden. All that new, rich soil made quick work of the planting. It was nice to see earth worms in the mix too, always a plus.  As a bonus, I unearthed my afternoon snack: half a dozen carrots that I missed harvesting last week.

The Freesia are early summer bloomers. I planted them in a curved row in the small triangle garden I created last year. The mix includes white, yellow, red, pink and purple flowers.

Rain

San Jose received a ‘trace’ of rain last week. It was enough to clear the awful air we’ve had, but nothing more. We’ve had 27 spare the air days this season days thanks to fires, illegal wood burning and lack of rain.  Our five-day forecast calls for sunny skies and high temps. By Thursday, temps will be up to 72 degrees F (22 degrees C). January is typically our coolest month with an average of 58 degrees. I enjoy beautiful days as much as the next person, but it feels so strange to have winter skies, spring temps and summer ‘rain’.

Little Free Library

The Little Free Library is up and running a week now. Check back tomorrow for an update. I hope life is good in your corner of the world.

Garden Bulbs: Putting on a Show

Today, I was ready! I’ve been enjoying these beautiful tulips putting on a show and wanted to share them with you. I kept missing the chance to grab a picture of their buttery centers. The tulips start to ‘disrobe’ around mid-day, usually when I’m gone. They’re wrapped up snugly first thing in the morning and again by dusk. Aren’t they something?

Tulip opens up

Tulip opens up

three tulips

Trio of Beauties

Petite and purple crocus broke ground this week, blooming with sporty stripes and tailored leaves to match They’re small put powerful, and once established, appear year after year. I planted crocus in several pots and as a border under the Acer and around the steps. Next year I’ll be far more adventurous, planting in greater volume. They’re magnificent!

Purple crocus

Purple Crocus with Lemony Centers

This lovely should burst on the scene tomorrow, just in time for Blooming Thursday. (No pressure, little flower.)

Tomorrow's promise

Tomorrow’s promise

I’ll close with this luscious number. I don’t remember planting it and don’t know what it is. Suggestions welcome.

DSC_0006

(Almost) Blooming Thursday: Tulips!

Tulips Break Ground

Tulips Break Ground

Did you hear me squeal with delight?

Tulips are popping up all over the garden. They won’t flower for a little while, but the fact that they’ve survived this long (shh…don’t tip off the squirrels) is amazing.

Last fall I planted three varieties, purchased at a local garden center. They are all sourced from Van Zyverden.

I planted:

  • 15 Tulip ‘Angélique
  • 15 Tulip ‘Attila‘; and
  • 5 Tulip ‘Passionale

In other words, the potential for 35 stunning acts of nature. Guess what? I counted over twenty, ground-breaking bulbs! The last time I planted tulips, nothing came up. Zip. Zero. Nada. I’m really liking these odds.

tulip bulbs break ground

Tulips all Around!

While I had my nose to the earth, I noticed several more bulbs breaking through: Crocus, Narcissus and a few others, to-be-determined when they bloom.

Oh happy day!  What’s ‘cooking’ in your garden this Thursday?

spring bulbs collage

Assorted Spring Bulbs Break Ground

Tulip Bulbs

Tulip Bulbs

 

Daffodils, Pomegranates and Wordsworth

DSC_0039I was feeling a little blue yesterday, so what better way to bring cheer than flowers. Yellow flowers really brighten a room, especially in the middle of January.  Further, nothing says “spring is coming!” like daffodils.

The small potted bulbs were an impulse purchase, but I bought them without remorse. (Okay I’m a bit remorseful that I left a Weight Watchers meeting and bought dark chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds, but it was the daffodils I went in for.)  I lost weight so why wouldn’t I celebrate with a bit of heart-healthy dark chocolate?

I digress.

Daffodils (narcissus) originated in Spain and Portugal, though it was Holland that perfected the bulb trade.  According to American Meadows  “over nine billion flower bulbs are produced each year in Holland, and about 7 billion of them are exported, for an export value of three-quarters of a billion dollars. According to the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center, the USA is the biggest importer of Dutch bulbs.”

I guess I’m not the only flower-lover making impulse purchases! William Wordsworth says it best:

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

daffodilsDaffodils, by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

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.