Crazy gardeners in Buffalo spotted planting bulbs in January



This will surely be the test of the theory that bulbs planted too late in the season—or, really, after the season is well over—will have difficulty settling in for a spring bloom Our local über-gardener Gordon Ballard took advantage of two days of 60-degree-temps last week (I had to work, dammit) to plant a half dozen perennials, replant a climbing rose, and plant well over 300 bulbs. That brings his bulb count well into the four-figure range.

Sadly, the warm spell had receded by Wednesday, but it was enough to get rid of the snow and we’re still in the high 30s. Makes me want to get out there and at least throw some mulch down. Or something.

That’s quite some bulb auger he’s got there.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Heh. I’ve got some daffolils that didn’t get into the ground. After the ground froze in late November, I tossed them in a trash can outside. I was going to put them in a container, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

    If they really want to live, they’ll have a chance to prove it.

    First I’ll have to thaw some soil/compost mix that I have sitting in containers in the back yard. Then I’ll pot the bulbs and leave them in my cold basement for a few weeks. Then I’ll set them outside to freeze a while longer, before they warm up with their sibling bulbs in the ground.

  2. Well, if we could see the ground here it might be tempting, but even after 10 days of January thaw (we had snow fog in midweek because it was melting so fast) there is still about a foot of snow everywhere and repeated melts and refreezes have turned it into a very hard pack.

    And we’re about to return to our regularly scheduled winter program, with a nice 8-12″ nor’easter predicted for tomorrow.

    Since winter showed up so damn early, maybe we’ll catch a break and have an early spring too.

  3. When the temps hit 60 last week, i went and hit a large bucket of golf balls! Tomorrow we get 10-14 inches, but for a brief fleeting moment we pretended it was April in New England!
    And can I just add…….. GO PATS!!!

  4. I planted bulbs today in northern NJ (6B). I’m guessing we may have a late spring (like last year) and they’ll have plenty of time to do whatever it is they do underground.

  5. Man, I think Gordon and I would be fast friends if we got to know each other. He’s so charmingly IRRESPONSIBLE! What is he doing, paying for 300 bulbs and not getting them in the ground on time?

    I really need to know if Gordon’s attempt to cheat the seasons works. My attempts to plant tulips in little thaws have so far been failures.

  6. Michele, you’re in a colder zone than Buffalo, according to the maps anyway-but according to Craig it’s all about the soil temps. You have sand and we have clay–do you think this would make a difference in soil temps?

    I feel uneasy venturing into botanical arcanity like thus.

  7. I live in Nebraska and every so often we get the chance to plant in the month of December or January. In fact a number of our tulips were planted in January weather. Doesn’t happen to often but when it does it sure is a good feeling.

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