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.

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