Tulip of the season

Much as they say one forgets the pain of childbirth—though I
don’t believe that for a moment—I have forgotten every bulb failure of the last
spring, including how short a time some of them lasted, how the squirrels dug
up a bunch of my container tulips, how I forgot to plant several bags of
last-minute sale lilies, and how for the second year in a row the acuminata did
not show its expensive face at all.


Lily of the season: orienpet "Grandiose"

No, all that is easily pushed aside as I pore over the
catalogs: mainly John Scheepers, Brent & Becky’s and Old House Gardens,
though I am considering giving McClure and Zimmerman another try. The Lily
Garden is the last one to show up.


Disappointment of the season: the squirrels ate the missing ones. 

Some of the fantasies I am entertaining:

•Forcing about 50 hyacinths, all the same color in similar
pots and making kind of a minimalist display with them.

•Doing different lilies in pots every year.

•Buying a few of every variety of species tulip I don’t have

•Making a huge planting of the t. vvedenskyi (shown at top),
the loudest and shortest tulip I think I’ve ever seen, though impossible to photograph

•burying some pots (if I can get down that far) in the
front, so it is easier to change them out

There is no room for discouraging thoughts right now. Let
the ordering begin! And when you think of it, a couple hundred bucks isn’t much
to pay for the pleasure of anticipating these plants and enjoying them when
they finally appear, both inside as forced plants and outside as a long-awaited
respite of color after the usual dreary months of late winter and early spring.
But never enough. That’s why I have to plant more. I have to.

Do I have fellow bulb-obsessives out there? Or have you
given up? What were your successes last year and what are the new ones you may
try this year? I am thinking of posting a top ten of the most rewarding bulbs
to plant, so please link to pictures if you can.

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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 yahoo.com


  1. I really really really have to practice self restraint this year because the bed is too new. I made a new terraced bed and backfilled it with compost and dirt (lots of wheel barrowing) and it needs to sit and settle before I can plant. The trees and shrubs are planned for next spring and the bulbs for next fall. But saying that, I love the minor bulbs. The Tommies (crocus, especially Barrs purple, it just glows),never can have too many snowdrops and species tulips. So I peruse the catalogues and make lists for next year which I will of couse lose and/or change upteen times.

  2. That is a pretty one, Susan. There are solutions for deer; many bloggers say they alternate 2 of the organic repellents and that works for them.

    A pain though. For the squirrels I plan to use metal screening on the pots and maybe on the ground where I have a lot planted.

  3. I have had great luck planting Barcelona, Recreado and Cum Laude tulips; they’re my go-to favorites, especially the Barcelonas. Also the Albert Heijn tulips I got from Scheepers did great. I should have pics of my own somewhere in my gardening blog, I will post them later. But meanwhile:

    I also got some Delft Blue hyacinths on Ebay from a seller who had imported them from Holland, and they did great.

  4. Voles munch all tulips here, making it necessary to encase in hardware cloth or chicken wire. Daffodils are the answer. Deer do not eat them and they reliably increase(no, I mean the daffs, silly). Check out the fabulous R. D. Havens and if you are anywhere near Oregon you should visit the farm.

  5. Deer do not touch my crocuses, so I’m planting more. Crocuses come at a time when we need some color.

    One of the most beautiful plantings I ever saw was a little brick tudor house that was at the end of a little street that butted up to the I-66 retaining wall in the Ballston section of Arlington, VA. In the front yard were planted hundreds of crocuses throughout the expanse of lawn. Of course, you don’t mow until the crocuses are spent. So for a few glorious weeks in the spring, the yard was a fairyland.

  6. I love species tulips, which naturalize well here (Colorado). Also miniature iris, crocus, Siberian squill, and muscari. While I like the little bulbs for their own sake, I like them best of all for the fact that they only require that I dig 2 in into my clay “soil” rather than 6-8 for daffodils and tulips.

  7. Susan, I just received the Colorblends catalogue for the first time, and I am in thrall to those blends of tulips! I have spent the past three days walking around the garden trying to work out how I can fit in a couple of hundred of their blends!

    But what is this rumour I hear of a “Lily Garden” catalogue? Link, please?

  8. Species tulips, the louder the better, always win out for me. They seem to come out earlier and last longer, and repeat better. I got sick of the squirrel issue too and made a wacky concoction to repel them – seemed to work but no promises. Here is my post about it if anyone cares. http://greenwalks.wordpress.com/2008/11/13/protecting-the-bulbs-from-dr-destructo/ It’s a little odd to go out and spray your dirt with onion/hot pepper spray and then sprinkle paprika over it after every time it rains, but I did get the least dig-ups of any year so maybe it worked?? Not a scientifically proven method, but at least organic and non-toxic. I have total Bulb Lust every year too and give in usually in the fall with our local Arboretum society’s sale. Good luck with your projects, they all sound wonderful!

  9. My unscientific way to keep squirrels off the bulbs is to put dog poop on top of the dirt once they’re planted. It marks them, scares the squirrels away and maybe even provides a bit of fertilzer. The deer are another story!

    I plan to order more allium this year. They were deer resistant and long-lasting. Also looking for some species tulips – not sure what variety yet.

  10. Im going to order about 50-100 Leucojum – aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’ this year, and see if I can have some nice drifts of these cute white flowers. Tulips are kind of expensive annuals for us way down south here in Alabama.

  11. The crocus, which would naturalize and become many many more, get fewer every year. But I will still keep planting!

  12. Hyacinths. I’m a sucker for hyacinths. City of Haarlem is just the right pale yellow and performs so beautifully for me. If only the Bradford pears didn’t bloom at the same time and mess with the scent.

  13. Elizabeth,
    You turned me into a bulb obsessed person with your bulb gift two(?) years ago.
    Thank you and my neighbors thank you. Now I have to get back to my catalogs.

  14. Elizabeth, it’s YOUR fault I’m not a bulb fanatic. Last year I planted a few different types of alliums, some clausiana tulips and some daffs. I’ve always had daffs, but that’s it. I’m in love with the alliums, and I will plant more Lady Jane tulips – they are so delicte and lovely. And I’m adding more minor bulbs, too. While I salivate over the ColorBlends catalog, I’m not planting those types of tulips. I’ll probably order from Scheepers. Most rewarding bulb to plant – do Oriental Lilies qualify? They are a huge bang for the buck and effort and the flowers are amazing. If not those, then Schubertii alliums. 😉

  15. Well, Kim, it seems you ARE a bulb fanatic, and I warmly welcome you to the club. And I want to double endorse Karen’s endorsement of species tulips.

  16. squirrels are the nemesis here in Maryland, but I’ve found that a handful of crushed oyster shells in each hole and scattered on top of the bed really helps – they are sharp and hard and really help

  17. Rosella,

    It is TheLilyGarden.com You can find links to bulb vendors on our sidebars too.

    The Lily Garden’s new catalog appears rather late–maybe not until Oct.

  18. Oh my, I meant to say it WAS Elizabeth’s fault I was a bulb fanatic. I guess I need to proofread my comments from now on. Sorry – my earlier comment came off sounding sorta accusatory. I readily admit I’m a fanatic. In fact, it probably won’t be long before I’ll need a 12-step program. More grass has gotta go . . . . . .

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