Monday, November 28, 2016

Gifts for Gardeners - Bulb therapy


Sometimes, you must buy your own gifts. Because only you know when you need them.

With autumn days drawing down, I had bought bulbs, of course. More lilies, for example. And I tidied away the last of the Mexican sunflowers (above), and the leaning stalks of jewelweed and the collapsed liatris seedheads.

But with the political news as bad as it could get, I bought more bulbs. And more.

And then some more.

"Keep digging, keep digging..."

Earlier, through October and into November, I had planted a lot of garlic, thinking that it might be useful for warding off evil. It came up.  But evil triumphed. And half the country did not vote.


In time for the worst news, 25 Crocus sativus arrived - for a grand total $9.95 (I bought these from Dutch Grown). Yup, saffron crocus. They arrived already sprouting and too late to leaf and flower this fall, but these are fall-blooming crocus, with the added excitement of saffron threads (their anthers). Why plant better-known Colchicum when you can have flowers and food (my motto)?

I have no idea how much saffron I can harvest from 25 plants, but I am hoping about a teaspoonful, dried. I dream small. And then there will be a bouillabaisse party, big time.


Also in that post-election order came 10 therapeutic daffodil 'Pheasant's Eye,' cream petals with an orange heart; 5 very exciting Fritillaria persica, statuesque with a spike of small purple flowers - I have planted them in the sunniest spot (sunniest then, there is zero sun, now) where water does not collect (they need good drainage); 5 Fritillaria radeana (above) - large, sturdy white and green flowers borne in a parasol, which are said to take some shade, so these are buried along the eastern side of the garden where the tall ivy fence shades that bed until later in the day in late spring and summer. And finally, 25 Muscari 'Valerie Finnis,' a pale blue grape hyacinth which will be picked for tiny posies, indoors.

In sunnier spots in the side beds are near-black Queen of the Night as well as some white tulips, from Brent and Becky's.

On the cusp of the election I planted two tulip cultivars, 'Darwin Impression' and 'Dragon King'  in four double rows in the vegetable garden. They are in doubtful taste, like our winning candidate, and I blame his fake tan for making me think that a pink-apricot blend was a good idea. But they were on sale in bulk, from Van Bourgundien's. So they are my vegetable garden joke and will look regimented, but then everything else in the vegetable patch is already in rows. Also, tulips are edible. They will bloom above the growing garlic and will be very present when photographed from the roof. I hope.


Also from Van Bourgundien's came a clutch Lilium regale, one of my classic lily choices - tall and white, not too showy, and scented; and Lilium lankongense, a pretty pale pink turkscap.


The lankongense were not in very good shape - one moldy and unusable bulb and the others quite dry. We'll see if they recover, underground.


My main lily order comes always from The Lily Garden in Washington - the best quality bulbs I have ever seen, and consequently more expensive. From them I reinforced my 'Silk Road' presence in the garden (Silk Road is the lily in my profile picture on the blog, taken by Julianna Sohn for Martha Stewart Living; it arrived one year as a bonus bulb and I hated it before loving it).


The new lilies were all planted in-ground, even as I was removing the pot-planted lilies (above) to store in the fridge over winter. I have given up allowing them to overwinter in pots, after one snowy winter rotted them all. The cold was fine, but the pots froze solid so that melting snow on top could not drain. An artificial pond was created, and only aquatics like wet feet. The same thing killed the potted roses the following year, in Harlem.


And, long before all this in the carefree days of October, I planted Eremurus and some more alliums ('Everest'), as those were so successful, last year. The Eremurus, which look like South African rain spiders, are an experiment - these are not ideal conditions for them. Also from Brent and Becky's the sizes were uneven - I am not sure that the tiddly ones will bloom.


All my election bulbs were planted just in time for some soaking rain after a dry start to fall. And then I sprinkled a carpet of chile flakes over the tulip bulbs. I had forgotten about squirrels and tulips (I never planted tulips in my previous terrace gardens - it seemed too much of a waste of pot-space, as I needed the pots for other things). A friend, a former Brooklyn resident, who now lives in the country - where he has ramps and morels on his land - reminded me. I've also laid branches on top of the tulip bulbs, and so far, so good...touch wood. Or chiles. I will reapply every few weeks.

Next year's garden exists only in my head, and there is no knowing, now, what next year may bring. Bad things, no doubt, at home and abroad.

But there will also be flowers.


16 comments:

  1. Squirrels and chipmunks also like crocuses. I can't remember now, are there chipmunks in the city? It has been a long time since we lived there.

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    1. I barricaded the crocus bulbs but so far not even one hole has been dug near them (lots of test-holes near tulips). There are chipmunks in the big parks, but they have not adapted to gardens.

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  2. I have a problem with lilies disappearing in my garden. They come up for a few years and then their gone....it's a mystery.

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    1. Hmmm. Lily bulbs are edible even for humans - do you have voles? Squirrels will eat them too, but I've not had that problem (touch wood) maybe because I bury them quite deep. Otherwise if they get too wet rotting may be a possibility.

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  3. Marie...I've grudgingly given up on tulips in my urban garden...they'll send up promising foliage followed by plenty of stately flower stalks...but ultimately, they get gobbled up right before bloom. We suspect the squirrels ...maddening!! (and expensive).
    Susan
    Boston MA

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    1. You mean, they eat the FLOWERS!? Or they dig up the bulbs? That would drive me mad. I may reach the same conclusion. We'll see.

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    2. Indeed, just as the flower bud is about to unfurl, I'll arrive at the garden (the Fenway Victory Garden in Boston) and someone/thing has devoured the entire bud for breakfast. Humiliating and disappointing. But please don't give up -- each site, situation has its own Karma and I wish you all good. Susan

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  4. We have many pots filled with paper white narcissus bulbs, tucked under a spare twin bed which sits over the root cellar (thus a bit chilly). We will bring them out in stages, to brighten the gloomier days of our Vermont winter. Their delicate and translucent blooms, fragrant and bewitching, create magic on a windowsill. We will need all the hope we can muster come January.

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    1. Very good idea, and I love the scent.

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  5. What promise in all those wonderful bulbs. (I was astonished that you had a low turnout of voters in this election - with so much at stake!?)

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  6. Thank you for this.

    I, too, planted bulbs just after the election and found myself wondering--obsessing?--about what the state of the world will be when they come up in future years. (Although given our warm temperatures recently, some have already started to emerge.) I also planted saffron crocus for the first time this year--fingers crossed!

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    1. Ha, interesting. When did you plant your crocus?

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  7. I am an immigrant and a person of color and post election I am worried of my family's future in this country. Like you I have taken solace in gardening. Yesterday I sowed the first batch of sweet peas for winter. I live in San Diego where we can garden through winter. Thank you for this blog, it will help me get through the next four years. We will always have flowers.

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    1. I am very sorry to hear that you are worried about your future, Sweta. I am an immigrant, too, but am about as Aryan-looking as they come, so I can hide, that way. Keep planting sweet peas and know that there are millions of people who hate what is happening.

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  8. I have saffron planted too. The first year I got about just about 2 teaspoons for 50 bulbs. Then I divided them and got nothing. :( The third year I've only gotten about half a teaspoon. I have high hopes for the next and 4th year in terns of crocus production ... less so politically.

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