Each spring, I look forward to the arrival of the flowers that emerge from bulbs I have nearly forgotten while the earth covers them for more than six months out of the year. After the flowers bloom, I leave the messy foliage to grow, because that is the way the bulb obtains nutrients for next year’s flowers, until the foliage melts into the soil and the exuberance of the summer garden covers the area.
I enjoy driving country roads in the spring and seeing the clumps of bulbs marking the sites of long-rotted houses. I imagine a farm wife stepping out the door one fall day to plant them with apron pockets full of bulbs a friend or relative gave her, for the farm wife in my imagination would not have enough extra money to spend it on something as frivolous as flowers.
She kneels in the soil, digs a spot for the bulbs, and tucks them beneath the soil. In spring, she awaits their green shoots as they push through the soil, and admonishes her many children to stay out of the flowerbed. However far they may travel from home as adults, the scent and sight of those sorts of flowers forever remind her children of spring in their mother’s garden.
|One of my babies is puzzled by this flower as we enjoy the spring bulbs|
Over the years, the bulbs multiply. While the bulbs are dormant, in the summer and early fall, she digs the bulbs and passes along the bulbs to some other wife, or she sends her newly married daughters or daughters-in-law with bulbs to decorate their gardens. Depending on the bulb, she might even decide that that she has more than she knows what to do with, so she digs bulbs and tosses them over the fence into the cow pasture, where they put out roots, grow, and bloom.
My grandmother tossed some bulbs over the fence into the cow pasture many years before I was born, because she needed them out of her garden and had no one else to give them to, and there they grew and bloomed. We call them “Butter and Eggs” and the ruffled blooms are tinged with green. I dug some bulbs out of the cow pasture and brought them home to my garden.
|Bulbs decorate the winter garden. The white plastic protected the winter vegetables, and it must be a warm day because the lid on the cold frame is open at the rear center of the photo.|
My mother has beautiful white daffodils by the back door, and some more tiny yellow ones by the basement steps. I have helped myself to those bulbs, and I wrestled a hole in the hard clay at my house to put in the bulbs. Now my bulbs need thinning, and I will pass bulbs along to someone, or I’ll expand my plantings of
|Daffodils turn towards the sun, and unfortunately for the situation of this flowerbed, that means they turn away from the viewer of the flowerbed|
I have planted daffodils throughout my woods, and in early spring, the woods are speckled with spots of yellow and white flowers. If you want daffodils, obtain some from a friend or buy some at the garden center. Daffodils are reliably perennial, or come back every year, here. Deer do not usually eat them, and so they are the perfect bulb to plant nearly anywhere in full sun.
Tulips are beautiful, but they do not reliably come back here because our winters are not cold enough to give them the winter chill they need to prosper. I plant them anyway, and encourage them to bloom by either putting them in the refrigerator, inside a paper bag, away from ripening fruit for about six week before I plant them, or by planting them in a container outside where they get cold temperatures without the insulating effects of the earth. Although the aforementioned farmwife would think me extravagantly wasteful, I usually treat them as annuals, and I pull them out and discard them when they have finished blooming.