When you reach any age, you have made and broken some habits. When I enter my house, I smash everything I’m carrying on the couch, put my purse on a rocking chair, and stash my bunch of keys on the kitchen table. If I wasn’t carrying anything, I feel like my body would still go through these habitual motions.
I eat sweets every night and feel like I’m missing a day if I don’t watch the PBS “Newsour.” I usually broadcast the news while having dinner, which I habitually eat on the couch. I check my cell phone when I leave the house, brush my teeth before sleeping and constantly wish I could get used to more exercise.
After a while a gardener adopts the habits of the yard.
One of my gardening consultants told me to remember to plant the bulbs around Thanksgiving. Bulbs do better if they stay “cold” for several weeks. A cool place inside the house is the crisper drawer of the fridge. After Thanksgiving, most people need every inch of the fridge to stash leftovers. You take the bulbs out of the crisper drawer the day after Thanksgiving.
The crisper drawer allows you to separate the bulbs from the fruit (or leftover fruit salad), which sends ethylene gas, which can ruin your bulbs.
This week I put my hyacinth bulbs in the crisper drawer.
Chilling bulbs are a thing. You can buy (and pay extra) the bulbs already chilled if you order bulbs through a fancy online catalog. However, if you’re like me and buy bulbs at a big box store before the price goes up, the lack of chilling is your own fault.
Some bulbs, such as daffodils, will bloom beautifully even if you leave them in the middle of your living room for most of fall. However, for all seasons the website suggests 12-15 weeks of shredding for the plants tulips, crocus, hyacinth, muscari, snowdrops, alliums and iris. They also mention the Siberian Squill, which I’ve never heard of but must be popular somewhere. Daffodils will theoretically do even better after a cold treatment, but I haven’t tested this garden philosophy in several years. If they do the same thing this year, they will bloom again next year.
Squirrels will hunt down your tulip bulbs like a sow in search of truffles. But long-tailed tree rats will dig up daffodils just to make a gardener’s life crazy, remember that squirrels don’t like to eat daffodils, and leave your yard as if the earth ate your bulbs.
Consider it a long game of hide and seek.
I’ve been busy with school or teaching for the past several years and haven’t had time for the “bulb ritual”. This year I had a beautiful time between a trip with my friend Laura and a drive for my mother. This was enough time for “bulb rotation”.
If you shop at Costco, you probably have great items in every wardrobe in your home. Sometimes I’ll open the linen drawer and find long-forgotten rolls of paper towels. Most years I buy several bags of bulbs at Costco, which means I have enough for myself, enough to share with my mother and some leftovers when I’m driving.
Over the years I’ve had daffodil bulbs removed almost everywhere I can imagine. I have bulbs that bloom behind the gate, in the planter box with my blood orange tree and some that only bloom if I forget to mow the lawn. Freesia is another bulb that can and will repeat. I buy more every year because you really can’t grow much freesia (they’re tiny and fit in a wheelbarrow full of geraniums, annual vegetables and sand and cactus).
On that dull day, with an hour between a visit with a friend and a visit from my mother, I pulled out about 10 pots from the side of the house, where I store the pots of the bulbs after the bulbs bloomed. The shady side of the house is not ideal. The best place to store the bulbs would be a “cool, dry place.” However, the only “cool” spot at Chico’s in summer is the fridge’s crisper drawer.
One by one I dumped the mess from the pots into the shallow, yellow plastic tubs most people use to store iced beer at barbecues. Some pots only contained pieces of bulbs – bulbs that had rotted over time. I learned a good lesson about those black, cloth pots that are so easy to drag around the yard. Bulbs rot very quickly in those cloth pots.
I also learned that gardening can be a good sweat, especially when you’re in a hurry.
Most plastic pots have bulbs that look pliable. I stopped throwing the soil out in plastic pots, and just put more daffodils on top. Even if squirrels dig them up and use them to play badminton, I’ll have a great show next spring.