The paperwhite bulb on the left, purchased from Brent & Becky’s, cost about 60 cents more than the one on the right, a Ziva, purchased from Home Depot. It’s also a slightly different hybrid (discussed in this post) with a milder scent. Of course, a Ziva bulb from B&B would be equally sizable.
It’s not just that the mail order companies tend to use terms like “top-size bulbs,” and give you size ranges in centimeters. They may claim that bigger bulbs—well, at least bigger tazetta bulbs—perform better, but I wouldn’t care about their claims if experience hadn’t proven them to be true. I’ve found that the smaller tazettas tend to give fewer stems, fewer flowers, and the flowers tend not to last as long. Sometimes, small bulbs and plants are cool; in this case, they’re not what I’m after.
Sadly, my local nurseries seem to be sourcing their bulbs from the same places as the big boxes; it seems that offering fifteen types of heuchera doesn’t guarantee an equally sophisticated selection of spring bulbs. So it looks like I’ll be sending my bulb dollars to Connecticut, Virginia, Michigan, and Washington State for the foreseeable future. Though I’m still not sure I needed 430 of them.