Every spring the gardener at my office will plant flower bulbs around the base of trees that line up in front of the office. The bulbs vary from year to year, from tulips to daffodils to hyacinths. They look lovely in those little patches on the sidewalk. After a month passes, the flowers fade, the leaves start to turn yellow and the gardener removes them replacing them with something else. I thought they would be stored or kept in containers for planting next spring.
One day I saw him putting the bulbs in a garbage bag so I asked. The answer; they would be dumped in the garbage. That was sad to hear. I see no point in not asking whether I can have them since they will become part of a landfill somewhere anyway, wasted for no good reason. He was happy to give them to me, and from then on, he’s been holding them for me. From one gardener (a pro) to another (an amateur). I shared them with my colleagues and neighbor. My neighbor especially, just couldn’t wrap her head around the idea of wasting perfectly good bulbs. Yes, we know they are commercially grown for garden design purposes to produce exceptionally large, colorful flowers. Their life, however, is short at one spring season. They end up as city garbage after they no longer produce pretty flowers.
I dragged bags of bulbs home for the last few years and planted, what’s left over after sharing, in our garden. I found that planting them this way, flopping leaves and all, the squirrels won’t dig them up. If I don’t have time, I let them dry out, cut the leaves off and store the bulbs for planting next spring.
I have free, healthy plants. The bulbs appreciate being rescued from a city landfill and adopted into an organic garden. They show their joy at being alive year after year, reproducing a new generation every spring for us to enjoy. Their gratitude clearly expressed both in colors and fragrance.
They have been pushing their leaves up above ground for a couple of weeks and finally opened up. A beautiful deep blue with yellow blotches, an Iris called Harmony (I. reticulata Harmony) is another flower that blossoms in early spring, and this little beauty is only 4″ above ground. Cute little thing.
I remember I bought a bag of little bulbs from one of the catalogs a couple of years ago. Put the whole bag in the ground in fall but only a few came up the following spring. Though, it is supposed to be a type of rock garden Iris that can do well with less water, I think the plot may be too dry since it is under the roof and only a quarter of it gets rain water. But, it survives year after year among the Hyacinth, with the leaves just an inch above ground now, along with Columbine (self-sown, I swear).
By summer there will be no sign of the iris left. It retires back under the ground to wait for next spring.
A sure sign that spring is coming is when the little Common Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) push themselves up above ground. Our Common Snowdrops have already blossomed with white delicate flowers like little lanterns shining spring light. Don’t let the delicate looking petals fool you, they are tougher than they look. I used to rush to look at them in the morning after a snow fall overnight or when the temperature was down to a little bit above 20 degrees to make sure that they survived. They always look happy and playful in the morning wind.
They are very easy to grow. You just put the bulbs in the ground in autumn, give them some good dirt and wait for spring to come. The deer won’t bother them.
I will have to do something about the Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) that appeared to crowd this little beauty a bit too closely last year. I think I will dig some of the lilies out to provide room for the Snowdrops. As much as I don’t like growing bulbs since they will disapper underground after spring blossoming, Snowdrops are one of the exceptions.
If you want to grow something that will push your late winter depression away; I give you Snowdrops. Their appearance is a confirmation that life goes round and round; after a dark and moody winter, there will be a bright spring.