1073 bulbs in the house

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They’ll be staying there, too, because I don’t think H. Sandy is going to let me plant them for a few days. A minor complaint, to be sure, in the face of all the gloomy prognostications I have been hearing and reading over the weekend (best wishes and good luck to all of you in the coastal target areas). Truth is, it takes a lot less than a hurricane to put me off.  Pretty much any weather situation less than 55 or wetter than a drizzle is enough to keep me inside.

Bulb planting marks the grand finale of my outdoor gardening season, and I can truthfully say that it’s a relief to forget about the garden for a few months.  While there are certain aspects of warm-zone life that I might envy, year-round gardening is not one of them. I’m happy to putter with my indoor bulbs (which account for a good portion of the 1073; most of the rest go in big pots), keep my houseplants alive, and turn my attention to other things.

At this time of year, I also tend to avert my eyes from gardening advice columns, which are usually lists of things I never do. Like fall clean-up. Whatever is still there to be cleaned up—most leftover plant material tends to dissolve on its own—can be taken care of in the spring, when stuff needs to look good. Or weeding. In late fall? Why bother? Raking is necessary with the heavy maple leaves, but fortunately there are folks around here who will do a great job for a relatively modest sum. As for tools, they just need to be where I will find them in the spring. That’s it.

So let the winds and rain of fall rage as harmlessly as possible. I’m done. Or will be when these 1073 are under some dirt.

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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 regular 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. How relaxing an attitude. Now me, I have the day off and was planning on geting out there and pulling the weeds that popped up during our Indian summer. Start whacking down the per.’s and rake and bag the leaves (save them to mix with the grass clippings for mulch pile) And it is a steady cold rain. And for once I am caught up on inside chores. Nothing I want to read. And I am bored. So bored I might even have to reort to cleaning out closets. or go walk around the mall. Or wait! I can go thru the catalogues one more time and order bulbs.

  2. My bulb order is due to arrive today or tomorrow. It is a little late because I wait until they go on sale. Still plenty of time to plant them though, we shouldn’t freeze up for a few more weeks. Fall clean up…well, I guess I should put my hoses away. I will stack my plastic Adirondack chairs so they don’t end up in the neighbours yard. I did rake up the maple leaves off the lawn and put them in garbage bags for distributing in the spring. Everything that fell in the gardens can stay, and the hostas and other perennials can decompose in place. In the spring some of it might get tidied, but then the bulbs are coming up and I can’t walk in the garden because I will crush something that hasn’t poked up yet. The bulbs distract everyone’s eyes away from any debris anyway.

  3. When I first saw the article in my news feed, I thought it was going to be about Chestnuts. Then I put my glasses on and actually read the title. Oops.

    Bublb sell like candy over here. We are thinking of selling so I won’t be getting anything new. However I did collect some Quercus robur acorns which I intent on planting at my mum’s home east of San Diego next spring. Some of the darn things are sprouting aöready. Hmm, looks like the freezer to slow things down a bit.

  4. Oh, Elizabeth – I’m the exact opposite of you. Maybe it’s because I do live where a winter garden is possible, but I love the Fall clean-up chores. Odd, since my husband will be first to testify of my complete lack of cleaning skills inside our home. I’ve spent my last few weekends & any free time I have after work, cleaning up summer debris, prepping beds for winter-planted perennials, spreading compost, and enjoying the first of the sugar snap peas (which hopefully will continue to thrive until April or so). Sun or rain, I don’t care in winter. I’ll work until I can no longer see what I’m doing. Summer is a real annoyance to me – 90 degrees until 10 at night? No, thanks. Sure, the warm weather bounty is great, but it requires little of me, thanks to my Fall prep work.

    Of course, I do envy your thousands of bulbs. They just don’t work around here. Growing up in the South, I remember driving past fields where the only remaining sign a home once stood there was the swath of naturalized daffodils. Not gonna happen here, where hardpan IS the topsoil & bulb in soil will likely rot before they bloom. *sigh* You will post pics when they bloom, won’t you?

  5. I love having any excuse at all to go out and play/work in the garden, all year round. But in past years, I’ve had at least one day when it was pouring rain and I had some essential couldn’t-wait garden task. Good hat, good gloves, a change of shoes and socks and jacket — and voila, warm and dry again. I put off planting garlic until December and harvesting yacon until January because I usually don’t have time before then. It’s hard for me to imagine closing the door on the garden for several months!!

    My bulbs are all in pots this year because I moved one of my gardens. It’s the time of year when the tomatoes are winding down but the Leucojum and Muscari are coming back to life!

  6. There are always the wrong number of bulbs – too few when you think about the cost, too many when they need planting, too few again when they come up!

    I agree that a break from the garden is vital. Refreshes my enthusiasm… and there is so much else in life too.. I love winter, indoors and cosiness..

  7. I have 100 bulbs left to plant of the 1,650 I ordered this fall, the majority are in the ground + I’m feeling like a chipmunk.

  8. Bulbs grown in pots need good drainage so put plenty of crocks in the bottom and use a well-drained compost. Note that if you ordered bulbs by mail or Internet, the supplier should provide instructions on when to plant the bulbs in your zone.

  9. How did I manage to accumulate *69* saffron crocus bulbs, all of which must be in planters as they have particular needs that don’t match other bulbs I want to plant?

    I haven’t anywhere near 1073 bulbs, but I think the total does not exceed 600. My particular problem is we’re renting for a while, and the back yard is trashed. Needs going over with a metal sweeper, then a rototiller, then put in some mulch, compost and soil, rototill again (tell me if I’m wrong there: saffronrose at me dot com), before we can think of planting anything safely. No sod for us in the back, but various short, walkable groundcovers of herbs and mosses.

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