garden projects

There’s Still Time!

…to plant bulbs

January 11, 2010

Here’s why you should get down on your hands and knees and plant your bulbs – if you haven’t already!

I spent the weekend visiting friends at their farm down by Florence, Oregon. It was a relaxing weekend, thanks for asking. But it wasn’t all fun and games. I learned something about my dear friend that I hadn’t known: she hides things from me. Specifically, bulbs that she hadn’t planted.

Last fall, I had placed a large bulb order with Brent & Becky’s Bulbs. My friend had added a request for some of her own – some daffodil, muscari, snowdrops, foxtail lily and a couple of other delicious little treats.

In October or so, my friend – henceforth to be known as "Wicked Ms. Naughty," to spare her the shame of personal exposure – made off to the farm with her treasures and I heard nothing more about them. Until I arrived for my little visit on Saturday morning. While snooping around in an unheated room off the kitchen, I discovered a bag brimming with the very bulbs she had ordered last fall. There they sat, wrapped in their little net bags, with sad leaf sprouts twisting in a tortured fashion out from their hideous plastic incarceration.

A short lecture later (about the nature of friendship and how such things should never be hidden from friends), we were outside digging. I was able to reassure her that the bulbs were almost all still in good shape. I squeezed the bulbs and nearly all of them were still reasonably firm and solid. Some, of course, were sprouting; others were a little too shriveled and I imagine there will be some loss. Fortunately, they were in a cool, dark place with a bit of air circulation, thanks to the net bags.

We probably planted about 75 bulbs and I suspect that most of them will be fine.


This is what Muscari latifolium looks like when it’s been left in the bag too long. But I have high hopes for its recovery, once it’s tucked in to a blanket of earth.

However, they will flower later than bulbs planted in October and November (especially the early types like crocus and snowdrops), and some of the flowers or foliage may be a little twisted or stunted. But chances are, almost all of them will recover within a year and flower properly and at the normal time in 2011.

So if you are among the wicked and have been hiding your unplanted bulbs in a secret place so that nobody will see them and discover your neglectful ways, may I offer advice? Yes? Well, it is this: take a fearless inventory of your unplanted bulbs right now. As long as you get to it lickety-split, you can probably salvage things. Remove them from the bag, spread them out and feel them. Yes, feel them up. Good bulbs are usually plump, firm and somewhat heavy. It is not a good sign if they have dry, greenish-blue mold on them and collapse with a little "puff" when squished or if they have rotten patches on them and smell foul. It’s true, there are a few bulbs, such as Anemone, that are naturally shriveled. But for most bulbs, shriveled and rubbery are not desirable qualities.

Once you’ve taken a bold inventory, felt them up and discarded the undesirables, it’s time to get out your shovel, pull on your boots and get planting.


Once you lay out your bulbs, the planting’s pretty quick!

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