The Dangers of Planting Bulbs

Hi Folks:

I thought that subject heading might cause a few people to scratch their heads in wonder, so permit me a moment to explain.  First of all, I’ve had a love affair with the earth since I was a boy living in the woods in Quebec.  I’d come home from school, drop my books on the kitchen counter, yell a quick hello and I was gone until dark.  To this day, the ‘woods’ is my true home.  As such I’ve loved gardening for a long time too, both indoors and out.  The first apartment Marcia and I had together was above the double garage, attached to the main house.  We had a large picture window in the living room and we had so many plants that several visitors to our landlady asked her if she had a greenhouse!

Marcia’s often said that all of my plants want to be trees.  In one home we had a 15-foot cathedral ceiling and we had 4 plants over 10-feet tall, including FRED, our Christmas tree.  In our guest bedroom we had a hibiscus plant that was basically an 8-foot diameter ball that took up half the room.  We planted a Brugmansia in a pot, expecting it (as per the image that came with it) to grow about 2-feet high and have a number of white flowers.  Ours grew 6 feet in a couple of months and had one flower that was nearly 2-feet long.  It was a night bloomer, and every evening all four floors of the house were filled with the most amazing scent.  In our last place together we had two poinsettias that re-bloomed 14 months after we got them.  One of them put out 24 blossoms!  So, where’s  the danger in all of this you ask?  Ah, I was just getting to that.

It was 11 deg C here today, and already snow drops and crocuses are starting to bloom.  It got me thinking of other places where I/we have lived, where January meant lots of snow and very cold temperatures.  But seeing those flowers pushing out of the ground also got me thinking about two seemingly-unrelated things: the number of outside gardens we’ve planted, and the number of times we’ve moved.  Perhaps they’re not related, you say?  Consider this…

I mentioned our first apartment above.  We lived there for three years.  In the fall of our second year we asked our landlady if we might take over a small patch of lawn and convert it to a garden.  We planted about a hundred bulbs of various kinds, and we did get to see them come up in the spring.  That same year our landlord/ landlady bought a business elsewhere, sold the house, and in July we moved.  We moved to a wonderful house on 200 acres of property, and we planted about a hundred bulbs there too.  The house sold and we moved in March, to a friend’s cottage.  That June our friend gave me some garlic bulbs that had started to grow, as well as some of that paper mulch with the wildflower seeds for her backyard.  We moved in October.  Our new place was the top two floors of a house in the country (with the cathedral ceiling), and the following summer I invested a lot of hours digging out coltsfoot roots, moving a large mat of lily bulbs and planting (among other things) a magnolia tree.  Moved in March.

Starting to see a pattern here?  It didn’t seem to matter where we were or for how long.  Somehow we knew, we knew…  We were married in October 2002, and we got a wonderful place in the country, a house that had been split into two apartments.  Well, we ‘dug in’ so to speak,  and we didn’t plant much the first year.  But we were hopelessly committed, and so we planted gardens around the front, the side, and the back, including some wonderful runner beans that wound up a trellis around the downspouts.  The house was sold and the next summer we moved again, temporarily, we thought, to stay with some friends.  We were there, in the country, and what could we do?  We helped them out, including some gardening… We moved again in July, and then, with 2 days notice we took over management of a lodge in Ontario’s ‘Near North’.  We began our tenure there on September 1, and as we took over we knew we had a large wedding coming up in three weeks.  I purchased about four dozen winter-hardy mums in different colours and filled the flower boxes in front of the lodge.  We moved to BC in January.

We got a half-duplex in September, and we did actually live there for more than one year!  Closer to three, actually.  We planted a vegetable garden AND flowers, figuring we may as well go all out.  The house sold, we changed landlords, but we stayed.  We thought maybe a new pattern was in the works?  Then our one son and daughter-in-law had a son, and we wanted to be closer to them, but not so close to the big city.  We came here, to the City of Gardens.

Now I’ve only been here less than three months, so other than a few houseplants I haven’t put anything in the ground yet.  We’ll see what happens.  As far as we can tell there are two possible reasons for all of this.  We figured at first that the Earth Mother was telling us, “Okay, that looks great! Now over here…”  That may be, but maybe she was simply guiding us here, instead.  Time will tell.


P.S.  As I was thinking about bulbs today I also remembered the two places I lived before Marcia and I got together.  I lived in the one apartment three years, and in the fall of the  second year planted some tulips in the front yard.  I moved the following spring.  I lived in that house for a little over a year, but I was the one responsible for rototilling the garden, doing the weeding… Hmmm…

P.S. II, the sequel.  In our second major bulb planting excursion we were concerned that the red squirrels and black squirrels that were attracted to our bird feeders might also find the bulbs a tasty treat, so we prepared for this by adding a little blood meal to each hole before planting the bulbs.  A few days later we discovered that a striped skunk, attracted by the scent, had dug up several of the bulbs before discovering there was nothing there of real interest!  A skunk was also the only visitor we had for Hallowe’en that year, but that may have been a function of our 300-yard driveway.

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