Could the bulb campaigns be paying off?

Bulb image courtesy of Shutterstock
Bulb image courtesy of Shutterstock

Shortly after mocking this marketing effort, I heard via email from some industry insiders that the big bulb houses were desperate—bulb sales had slumped along with all else gardening during the housing meltdown, but (unlike vegetable seeds, for instance) they never rebounded. I was also informed that the big box practice of paying only for the bulbs they actually sold was keeping bulb vendors underwater.

Somebody needs to tell Buffalo’s biggest IGC about the dire state of bulbs, though. In a burst of insane optimism, they have installed the most comprehensive spring bulb display I’ve ever seen there. There are multiple types of muscari, galanthus, and species tulips. There are also five kinds of tazettas, including Grand Soleil d’Or , where there used to be a few boxes of Ziva. Not to mention all the tulip, narcissus, allium, and hyacinth hybrids. The bulbs seem topsize too. I almost regretted I had already ordered over 800 from my usual mail order suspects.

I hope they sell them all—especially to their mostly suburban customers, with their flocks of deer and armies of voles. As for me, 2014, more than any other year, will be the year of the bulb. Having gotten rid of all my ground cover and installed a series of easeway beds, there is a lot more room for bulbs now—besides all the container plantings and what’s there already,  I’m adding a big mix of species tulips, miniature narcissus (canaliculatus, Pacific Coast, Sherborne, Art Design, wateri), galanthus, and erythronium.

But that’s me. I’m a bulb freak, and such are rare in these parts. Have any of your IGCs gone bulb crazy? Do you think it will work?

Previous articleThe “Queen of Green”? You be the Judge
Next articleElizabeth Gilbert’s Novel of Botanical Exploration
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. In the days of bulbs I used to run 300 varieties of tulips displayed by bloom date then by color within the bloom period. Also 80-90 narcs/daffs, 30 crocus and dozens of minor bulbs. These were all open bin pick the bulb yourself.

    Those days are done. When you have the British complaining about the decline of bulbs in their gardens it should tell you something.

    Anyone displaying mountains of loose bulbs is foolish at best. people say it is too much work. Yet the sales of Amaryllis at $20 a pop for 40cm bulbs is through the roof. And certainly Amaryllis is more work than DIG DROP DONE.

    • Years ago, my sister-in-law gave me an amaryllis she’d received as a gift, saying “I can’t get it to bloom. You want it?” I took it & applied all of my “grow or don’t” philosophy to it & tossed it into a pot full of bulbs that didn’t have any other home. A year later, it was blooming like crazy. Ten+ years later I’ve gotten more “babies” off that discarded bulb than I can count. It currently sits outside my kitchen door, surrounded by a small portion of its brood, and in better condition than it ever was in those years my SIL tried to get it to do something. And for a few months out of the year, I’m treated to a gorgeous show of show-stopping red flowers (just not at Christmas as so many expect theirs to do). All I bother to do with it is divide when needed & throw out a little bone meal now & again. I think that sometimes we put a lot of effort into trying to exert control over the plants when in fact they’ll do just fine with what my mother called “tender loving neglect”.

  2. The bulb display at my IGC is dismal. One type of crocus, 3 types of tulips, 2 hyacinths, a couple maybe types of daffodils. I buy from two different mail order companies to get my bulbs. Usually I pick some up at the grocery store as well, but this year they are all mixed bags, co-ordinating the colours for you. Or a mixed bag of different kinds of bulbs. I don’t buy those.

    Every spring I walk around town thinking to myself “why doesn’t anyone have spring bulbs?”. It is very sad.

  3. As far as DDD’s ad campaign…have you never heard of “tongue in cheek” delivery? Sheesh. And regardless of what you thought of the campaign, it succeeded in getting YOU to talk about it…absolutely free, Seems like a good investment to me!

  4. In the area that’s usually reserved for bulbs, my favorite IGC has added a lot of seasonal non-ornamentals. Food, I mean. There are oodles of potatoes & asparagus crowns & horseradish & rhubarb (which I don’t understand – we’re entirely too warm for it!) taking up half the space previously full of irises, paperwhites, muscari, & tulips. Maybe they finally realized bulbs don’t do that well here? Or not, since I noticed off to the side that they are selling tulips & certain others in a 10-lb mesh bag for those who need to cover a large area.

    What I really wanted was a huge container of California poppy seed, but it was nowhere to be found. How am I supposed to make seed bombs now?

  5. Elizabeth,
    Depends on where you garden. Some places such as the garden center you mention might do well with bulbs, hence the larger selection. Bulbs will likely never return to the sales they once enjoyed. The gardening public now has a million choices of how to spend their time, and bulbs are way down the list for most. That’s not to say that bulbs will just disappear. They have become a niche item, and some stores in some locations may still do well with them. The Internet will satisfy most of the collectors and other “bulb freaks”.

  6. Bulbs. When you order them, reluctantly you order far too few because of the way the bill mounts up.
    They arrive and you have to plant them – and there are far too many!!!
    They flower.
    And there are mysteriously far too few again….

  7. That campaign is horrid. Simply horrid. Ugh!

    As for being a bulb girl, you know I’m all about the bulbs. I’m doing that layering lasagna pot for my tulips this year. I don’t want to dig, drop, done anything. I will plant more narcissi in several of the beds. I don’t mind digging them because they actually return. Tulips, I treat like the pretty annuals they are.~~Dee

  8. It’s hard to imagine Spring without bulbs so I am ordering my usual array of them, plus gifts for others.
    I always plant tulips in pots so I can enjoy them from indoors without the threat of deer. They live in the porch where it’s cold but not too cold and where I can photograph them to my heart’s content.

    It’s not expensive either, a bottle of wine costs $10, a movie about the same or more, (haven’t been to a movie in years) so I can have 10 ‘Princess Irene’ tulips for $10, where’s the expense????

    Buy tulips and give yourself a treat!

  9. Just noticed my local organic grocery store had a little display of bulbs for sale. Usually in May they sell lots of veggie starts, so perhaps the hope is that folks who caught the veggie gardening bug will expand into other things (certainly that’s what happened to me a few years back).

    As I live in a place where winter is deep and dark and long, colorful candy-like spring bulbs are frankly a cure for depression. I can’t imagine why anyone gardening here wouldn’t pop a few daffodils or tulips in between their perennials – nothing else will come up so early and it will all die back before the other stuff gets going.

    Of course I hear hyacinths (not grape hyacinth) are VERY out of fashion these days. I just ordered a bunch of double hyacinths, which I’m sure are far too gaudy still. I suppose I’m a Victorian at heart.

Comments are closed.