It’s Not A Victimless Crime


You wouldn’t think it, here at a genteel website like Garden Rant where there is a minimum of cursing, but a couple of partners are full-blown bulb addicts.

Trust me, an addiction like that is its own hell–like giving a piggyback ride to the devil every fall and then again in spring. While some might argue that losing control on the tulip front is a victimless crime, only a fool would deny the collateral damage. Ask anybody who lives in an addict’s neighborhood, and they’ll tell you about the social costs of bulb addiction.

1. The addict spends exorbitant sums of money that might be used instead to bail out an investment bank or to buy small children shoes. And the street-level price of a normal complement of tulips is roughly 50% higher than it was just a year or two ago. The soaring cost of oil now appears to be built into everything but the fees people pay writers.

And let’s be clear about the unconscionable waste: While a certain percentage of bulb money may be used to buy perennial bulbs, the vast majority always goes to showy annual tulips. The addict whose bill we’re looking at here has basically thrown herself a $150 party scheduled for May. That money might have bought 6 fruit trees instead, which would have fed the addict’s family for years. But motherly love is no match for the craving for double lates.

2. Sometimes when these annual bulbs are being planted, innocent perennial bulbs get hurt. An allium is sliced in two or a lily mashed. Oh, the addict may try to keep her problem from hurting any bystanders. She may replace annual tulips with short dahlias in late May, so that when the dahlias are lifted after a frost, they reveal a spot where tulips can be safely planted. But eventually, inevitably, she’s driven back into the dark depths of the flower border, looking for a spot to sneakily tuck in more more more.

Img_13673. Sometimes the addict loses all perspective and embarrasses not just herself but also her family by combining purple, tomato red with a yellow fringe, and golden yellow.

4. Sometimes she mixes substances in a potentially lethal way. Notice the experimental species tulips and iris histrioides on the bill above.

5. Sometimes her bulb obsession leaves embarrassing gaps in her border as the foliage dies away. The neighbors feel she depresses property values and are hoping the next mayor cracks down on this kind of thing.


  1. Okay…For the first time in my life, I actually laughed so hard while drinking my morning coffee…I spit some on my computer screen!

    Thanks for that!

    I guess there is a little addict in all of us. Your post was a great way to start the morning!

    I’m off to get a paper towel….

  2. Well, apparently yes, Susan, given the way bulb prices are going. And that’s just in fall. And this year I restrained myself and didn’t order the 50 Madame Zurels I also wanted.

    What can I say? Tulips are just so ridiculously beautiful after a long gray winter ….

  3. Both you and Elizabeth have a serious problem when it comes to bulb purchase habits.

    Here’s what to do:

    1. Admitted you are powerless over bulbaholism—that your lives had become unmanageable.

    2. Come to believe that a Power greater than yourselves could restore you to sanity. Susan might be able to help here. She is a power greater than yourselves.

    3. Make a decision to turn your will and your lives over to the care of God as we understood Him/Her.

    4. Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourselves. Elizabeth, you may have extra work here.

    5. Admitted to God, to yourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. If you can’t find any human beings, Amy seems like a god listener.

    6. You’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. If God’s not available, Sarah Palin’s witch exorcist can maybe help.

    7. Humbly asked Him/Her to remove your shortcomings. (God, not Sarah Palin.)

    8. Make a list of all persons you have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. Good luck with this one Michele.

    9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

    10. Continue to take personal inventory and when you were wrong promptly admitted it. Difficult, I know.

    11. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with God as you understood Him/Her. Or not.

    12. Have a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, try to carry this message to other bulbaholics, and to practice these principles in all your affairs.

    It works for pretty much any addiction. If this doesn’t work, just double your bulb order for a great spring display. “Now is the time to plant bulbs for spring!”

  4. I say don’t fight it. Bulbs may be expensive but they are cheaper than therapy. If only there was a way to get health insurance to pick up the nursery tab. . .

  5. Jim, thank you for showing us the path to righteousness. But I don’t think either Elizabeth or I have hit bottom yet. I promise to seek help before I start layering bulbs on top of each other.

  6. I keep looking out the window wondering when the bulbs are going to be delivered. And I’m afraid to go back and check my printouts to see exactly what and how many I ordered. And, yes, I’m already thinking about the dreaded slicing and dicing of bulbs already in place. I also ordered a couple dozen to plant in the traffic island in front of my house — a tiny bed with a traffic sign in it as part of an attempt by the city to get folks to drive slower. So I will be on my hands and knees in the street on a slightly raised concrete bed — taking my life in my hands — and all to plant double lates!

  7. I’m afraid Eliz’s addiction has already sunk to the level of layering her bulbs, so there will be no high bottom for her.

    Okay, who’s in charge of the intervention? S

  8. You are, Susan. You’ve already been bestowed with an important role in the 12-step bulb addiction program. See above.

    As for me, I used to suffer from this affliction, but Florida has changed my ways. My methadone southern-bulbs-only program has been working to some degree. I’m waiting for all these string lilies to bloom. The rain lilies have already shown promise.

  9. I think that you are saved by the arum and iris inclusions. Those are worthy plants for any garden, and the purple sensation, I ordered 100 of them too. That’s a lot of tulips though, but there is nothing more beautiful, even orange, pink and purple together, ouch.


  10. I have been writing about gardening and general news for four years for several local papers. They have not even answered my inquires for a raise.

    The (Clark Kent) TROLL

  11. I see it all going wrong right here: 10. Continue to take personal inventory and when you were wrong promptly admitted it. Difficult, I know.

    When Michele takes inventory, she’s going to see that she’s quite low on those lates and will need to order more, forcing her to start all over at #1.

    She can add me to the list of persons harmed, because I WILL be ordering tulips next year. I’ve always wanted them, and she’s told me how to do them right. And Michele, NO amends necessary! You have my thanks. For the tulips and the dahlias, too.

  12. I can relate to your addiction as I am a recovering bulboholic. I was in denial until I realized that hiding bulbs in brown paper bags under the bathroom sink so my husband wouldn’t find out was truly a sickness. I went cold turkey a couple of years ago and have lost my craving.

  13. You haven’t even mentioned the most humiliating part: when you’ve ordered so many bulbs that you have to ask the nice lady at Scheeper’s to wait two days to run your debit card. Because the Brent and Becky’s charges have wiped you out.
    This talk of interventions is making me very uncomfortable, BTW.

  14. You mean there’s a problem with layering bulbs? I thought that once you go to the trouble of digging a hole…..

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