I feel a special satisfaction looking at these snow-capped pots of bulbs. Not only did I get all my bulbs in before it snowed; I also got them all fertilized, old and new. My bulbs are nicely tucked up under their coverlets.
How did it happen that I, practiced procrastinator and taker-on of too many projects that are left undone, burier of bulbs in freezing rain and snow – how did it happen that I did this in perfect timing?
I think it had to do with listening. It’s something every gardener, naturalist, or farmer comes to learn: listening to that quiet inner voice that says: do this now.
This year I actually did that. I listened to the voice that said, no matter what my desires, a small bulb order was the best thing for this year. So I got what (for me) amounts to a modest fall bulb order: 150 tulips, 10 fritillaries, 10 iris bucharica. Bulbs are incredibly beautiful, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that they aren’t work to plant.
Maybe it’s the way they say birth-labor is: once you see the beautiful results, you forget all that went before. But this year I remembered that when I buy hundreds of bulbs, it isn’t just more beauty: it’s also more pots, more potting soil, more amendments. And more planting time.
So this year, I remembered to get a smaller amount of bulbs (especially since I was ordering late in the year). And I did all the other work in small increments. I bought the soil one day and name tags one day, bought pots another. I thought about where everything would go: some of my early gregii tulip bulbs got put in the top of pots already filled with late tulips. (If you’re interested in more details, check out my succession planting posts.) By the time the gregii tulips are ungracefully fading, the bigger parrot and lily tulips will overshadowing their dying foliage (hopefully not enough to keep it from getting the sun it needs to make gregii bulbs for next year).
And then, when the weather and the day gave me hints, I planted, not all at once, but in small amounts; pouring in soil and amending it here, tucking in fritillaries with sages there, adding the early bulbs to the tops of old bulbs two or three pots at a time. I never worked more than ten to twenty minutes at once, and unlike other years, I wound up planting when it was actually comfortable to be outside and my hands didn’t freeze.
It’s got me wondering about the frenetic activity of former years. What would have happened if I’d listened to all those hints from wind, weather, moon, sun and experience before, instead of insisting on the big rush with the biggest possible amount of bulbs?