As winter recedes across the land, the promise of new life emerges from the soil. The grass takes on a familiar hue, and the smell of spring wafts in the garden. As the growing tips of fall planted bulbs push skyward, their history is deeply rooted in folklore and stories of power and intrigue.
From healing powers in Greek mythology to the Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637, it’s a story worthy of the movie of the week or at least an exciting novel. Fortunes were made and lost, and lives forever changed over simple tulip bulbs.
At the peak of Tulip Mania in March of 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman of the era. Exported from the Netherlands to the world market for a hefty price, a coveted luxury item is now a very affordable common, but impressive, part of the American gardenscape.
Gorgeous spring gardens are enhanced by the power of the bulb, an underground fleshy storage, whose life cycle delights us. As temperatures and moisture content speak to the inner bulb clock, its timing is a wonder of nature. Blooming occurs when conditions are perfect from early spring, mid spring and late spring.
When selecting bulbs, consider their bloom color, shape, flowering time and height. Be sure to pick a sunny, well-drained area for them to survive and thrive. Plant in the fall before the ground freezes at a depth of three times the size of the bulb, meaning a 2-inch bulb should be planted at least 6-inches deep. Plant in mass groups, and beautiful blocks of color will flower, enhancing other plants nearby. Feed generously right after the flower fades.
The selection of bulbs is vast. The first bulb to bloom is the crocus. These little guys of four inches tall have colors of purple, cool white and vivid yellow, with faces opening toward the sun in the earliest spring.
The most beloved and common bulbs are tulips. Known for their wide selection of colors, durability and shapes, they are a staple of the bulb bed, and make an excellent cut flower.
Daffodils, also known as narcissus and jonquils, are a favorite of the spring experience. Their trumpeted shapes and shades of yellows, oranges and pinks make them irresistible in a natural setting. Easy to plant with little to no maintenance, they naturalize and multiply rapidly to their environment for years of pleasure. Bonus tip: deer do not like them.
Hyacinths are your heavy hitters, with the most fragrant blossoms, and are deer resistant. They adore cool temperatures and come in bright colors of blue, pink, red, purple and white.
Many other interesting bulbs are available at local garden centers in the fall: Allium, fritillaria, galanthus, Dutch iris and muscari, just to name a few. Explore the world of bulbs and find the ones that work for you in your garden.
If you didn’t plant bulbs last fall, you can buy them as potted plants already blooming to plant in your garden now for a pop of color, or to enjoy in your home. Many wonderful bulb flowers are also available as cut flowers at your local professional florist. Stop by or call your florist to send cheery spring flowers to your loved ones.