Bulbs and where they come from

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Hey Beth, I thought it was you who was planting tons of bulbs, all organized so they'd be providing color through the spring, but I don't see any such post in your garden report. Oh hell, maybe I'm reading too many journals if I can't keep them straight any more.

Anyway, I just got a catalog from a bulb company so I'm suddenly thinking about them. Anyone planting them? Any catalogs you recommend or think people should stay away from?

How do you do bulbs? I used to grow paperwhite narcissus in the house and you had to put them in the fridge for a while. When do you plant them here in California (zone 14, I believe we are)? Do you have to water them and stuff while they're in the ground, or just forget about them till they come bursting out in the spring? That's a very appealing idea, I must say.


-- Lizzie (crow@well.com), August 25, 1999


That was Lucy, I believe, of Aries Moon. She has big bulb plans.

I love bulbs. They're my favorite way to grow things, I think. I've used several mail order companies, and good old Park Seed is my favorite. I've gotten good healthy bulbs from Van Bourgwhateverian, but they got all the colors and varieties wrong. As for what to do with them, it depends on the bulbs. Tulips and hyacinths and crocuses need to be chilled in Zone 14 (six weeks in the fridge is best), and then they'll bloom fitfully for a couple of years. We're set for two cold winters in a row, though, so they did very well last year and will probably be nice this year, too. Other bulbs, like daffodils and other narcissus, do fine here without chilling. Same for freesias (those can freeze, though, if they come up too early) and scillas and grape hyacinths.

Most bulbs will rot if they get too much water while they're dormant, but it's usually mostly a question of good drainage. I don't worry too much about my bulbs, frankly -- if they aren't tough enough to survive, I'll plant something else. I give everything a good base of compost and bone meal at planting time, and I let the foliage ripen after bloom and don't tear it out until it dies back naturally. I curse the puppy and the squirrels when they do too much damage. Otherwise, everything is on its own!

If you have a spot in the sun that you'd prefer not to water during the dormant season, try gladiolas or watsonia. They like it dry when they aren't blooming.

-- Beth (beth@xeney.com), August 25, 1999.

Well, I did get some bulbs - narcissus and ranunculus - but then I flaked out on planting them. Is it too late?

I know I can grown the narcissus inside, if Mr Man doesn't destroy them - he thinks they smell like ant spray. But what about the ranunculus?


-- Lizzie (crow@well.com), January 03, 2000.

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