No bulbs this year

For some reason it slipped my mind. When bulb catalogs arrived in early autumn I set them aside, then did nothing. I usually scour them thoroughly, and of course get excited by one thing or several that are then planted by the start of November. This year, nothing. No bulbs were ordered, so none will be planted.

I regularly moan and grown that there’s no room to plant in this twenty-three year old garden, but there’s plenty of space for more bulbs. First, they take very little space. And, many can be planted under other plants so that more than one plant occupies a single space. Though the garden is nearly fully planted I’m pretty certain I could go on planting bulbs forever.

Late November and early December are not ideal for planting, but it’s not too late for planting bulbs that might have been set aside and forgotten (or purchased at clearance). It would have been better if they’d been planted several weeks earlier, but these things happen, and sometimes the gardener discovers in January a sack of daffodils or crocuses set aside in the garage. These should be planted, preferably as soon as possible, but also when the ground is not frozen. They are likely to flower later than usual in the spring, and the flowers might be a bit small the first year, but it’s well worth planting them rather than tossing them onto the rubbish pile.

There’s no good reason I didn’t think of ordering bulbs when the time came. With trees damaged by storms, and a large patch of bamboo that was removed, there are gaps in the garden that must be filled, so to some extent I’ve been considering these open spaces. But, it’s not like my life’s so hectic that there’s no time for a stray thought. I just didn’t do it. Perhaps I’ll be a bit more motivated in the spring to plant some summer flowering bulbs instead. Lilies can be plugged into the smallest spaces, and autumn crocuses can be planted directly under shrubs, so I can continue in trying to fill every square inch of the garden.

Most years I plant several dozen narcissus, usually something a little different, and in recent years varieties that have been around for nearly as long as man has gardened. I’ve planted snowdrops and fritillarias, and a bit of anything if the mood strikes when I’m browsing the catalogs. I usually plant too few of whatever so that it takes several additional years for the snowdrops to seed and spread before they start to look like something. Fifteen or twenty crocus doesn’t make much of a show, and it can be several years before they have spread (if the squirrels don’t get them).

I’ve been talking myself in and out of planting a few things before winter sets in. As temperatures drop there is more risk in planting broadleaf evergreens, but that’s what I’m looking at doing. But, no bulbs this autumn.


6 thoughts on “No bulbs this year

  1. I’m always amazed how prolifically bulbs multiply in my garden. As for crocus, my beds are full of them both spring blooming and fall blooming. I have more than enough for myself, my friends, the squirrels and others. The only thing I can attribute this to is good soil which I amend regularly with compost. Daffodils are also plentiful. Muscari and Star of Bethlehem are way too prolific. I throw the excess away. I enjoy all the bulbs blooming in both spring and fall.

    • Some of my bulbs are in good soil and others are planted in extreme dry shade, or continually damp soil. Bluebells spread with abandon in wet soil, and most bulbs spread quickly no matter how little care is given. Still, it would be better to plant a few more than eight or ten of something to start.

  2. Dave….We have squirrels, moles and voles. We also have crocuses, daffodils and jonquils which have all reproduced and spread from previous years. I’m reluctant to plant more bulbs to simply feed the critters. How do YOU protect your bulbs from them?

    • I don’t protect my bulbs. Daffodils are toxic, so nothing is needed to keep critters away from them. Mostly, I don’t plant bulbs that squirrels will dig up, though I have a weakness for spring crocuses so I keep planting to try to keep ahead of them. Many bulbs are at least mildly toxic so those are no problem.

      I know that there are gardeners who plant bulbs covered with wire or nylon mesh to keep the squirrels out, but I’m not that energetic.

  3. I just ordered an amaryllis bulb (variety name: Evergreen) but that was the only one I ordered this fall. I usually order/buy lots of bulbs but this year decided to plant seeds year round instead.
    btw Every frittalaria I’ve ever planted (here and in MA, both) NEVER came up and I couldn’t figure out why. Any ideas? Yours are stupendous looking!

    • In Florida you have the chilling days problem. If there are not enough cold days the bulbs might never break ground. In colder areas the most common issue why bulbs fail (beyond critters) is poorly drained soil (I think). Fritillarias prefer damp soil, but like most plants they would like to dry out occasionally, so well drained soil is required. The saving grace for most bulbs in areas with clay soils is that the bulbs are planted shallow enough that at least that portion is fairly well drained.

      When I plant bulbs I try to pay at least some attention to the depth that the bulbs prefer to be planted, but the deepest any are planted is the depth of my trowel. If eight or nine inches deep is preferred, tough luck, the trowel only digs six or seven. They don’t seem to mind, and I don’t recall any that haven’t come up the first year.

      Bulbs shipped from reliable sources are generally plump and vigorous, but over the years I’ve gotten a few shriveled up summer blooming bulbs by mail order that have failed.

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