Greetings from the land of No Bulb Left Behind



Almost finished here. About 600 in the ground or—mostly—in pots and 300 to go. Many of the unplanted are tazettas that need little or no chilling period or hyacinths for the root cellar but I still have a bunch of muscari and species tulips to get into the ground before November is out.

This year I am most excited about:

•Madonna lilies, which I am trying again after one time ten years ago
•The double Hollyhock, Mulberry Rose, and Madame Sophie hyacinths from Old House Gardens (shown above)
•Parrot tulips, which forced really well last year. The fallen petals were as much of a display as the intact flowers; both longer-lasting than most tulips

Some sources say handling hyacinths can cause skin irritation; I plant a lot of them in pots, but always wear gloves and so have never noticed it. I did see that at many of the retail outlets special bags for pink hyacinths and tulips were being offered as part of the breast cancer awareness campaign.

Throughout October, pink was the preferred shade for a lot of things: pens, post-its, tee shirts, perfume, and pizza boxes. Questions have been raised about the percentage from the sale of such items that is actually used for cancer research. And many are sick of the pink everywhere, particularly if it doesn’t translate into green (as in money for research or as in nontoxic ingredients).

Given the link between environmental factors and cancers, I’d be more impressed if bulb companies reduced the pesticides used in producing their crops in order to promote general health. I was glad that none of the companies I ordered from did the pink bulb promotions. Though I do love my pink hyacinths—Hollyhock and Mulberry Rose (which arrived at my house with 2 inches of green showing).

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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. The “pink” campaigns have annoyed me to the point that I now actively avoid buying those products. The kicker for me was when KFC started offering their product in a pink bucket, with a very tiny percentage of any proceeds going to actually fund research. Not that I’m a health fiend – I’ve had my share of fried chicken. But the irony of the purveyor of so much fatty food as a breast cancer research donor was just too much. I, too, would rather see companies put money into making the world an overall healthier place than into some color-coordinated marketing scheme.

  2. Which Parrot tulip cultivars have you forced? I’ve always had poor luck forcing them to open and develop properly as the buds abort on me after I take them out of cold storage and begin forcing them.

  3. Good luck with your Madonna Lily (Lilium candidum). I stubbornly attempt to grow these beauties year after year but I don’t seem to be able to protect them against this strange looking fungus (I think Botrytis) that attacks each and every time.

  4. Cancer research is very important to me as a lot of close family members and friends have died from various forms. However, I have always found the pink campaigns to be more holier than thou — and that really irritates me.

    Also, a couple of years ago, I was reading an article on cancer research (think it was on CNN) and it said that all these companies do is buy stock in the companies that produce cancer drugs. More of your money would go toward helping if you just bought the stock yourself — along with possibly turning a profit on it.

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