If you want to have a fabulous garden next spring now is the time to go out and buy bulbs. I was in two nurseries this weekend and both of them had just received the bulk of their spring blooming bulbs, which means the best selection is to be had right now. I would imagine that if you haven’t bought bulbs before you might wonder how you go about buying them other than looking at the pretty pictures and randomly grabbing something in a nice colour off the rack. To help, I’m going to walk you through the process I went through when I purchased my bulbs the other day.
Before I went shopping I reviewed a photo from earlier this spring so I could see where there were spots I’d like to put more bulbs in:
If I hadn’t taken a picture in the spring I’d have a hard time remembering where the empty spots were.now. This area looks SO different right now–it’s filled with annual flowers and big perennials. Taking photos of your garden all throughout the growing season is very helpful later on.
I spent some time reading the various bulb packages in the store, in order to make sure I was getting the types of flowers I wanted. I’m not endorsing any particular brand, these ones just happen to be what my nursery stocks, but let’s take a close look, line by line, at the package:
The photo tells us what we can hope the blooms will look like next spring.
The top line of text “Great for Naturalizing” tells me that these are bulbs that will likely come back year after year and possibly even multiply–that’s what they call “naturalizing”. Most of the big showy tulips do not naturalize well–you’ll likely get one great season out of them and then you’ll be lucky if a few of them come back the next year. Crocuses, muscari, daffodils, and most of what are called “botanical tulips” naturalize well.
The number 10 tells me that there are 10 bulbs in the package.
The name of this variety is “Yellow Mammoth”–sounds promising if you want large yellow blooms, and the type of bulb is a Crocus.
The height of the plant (the flower, really) is going to be 10 cm or 4″. This is quite a short flower.
The bloom time is “early spring.” In my area, that means these will likely come up and bloom in early May or possibly even late April. If you want to have something blooming in your garden all spring, you’d want to buy a mix of early, mid and late spring blooming bulbs.
Flipping the package over, we find more information:
“Planting instructions see reverse side” tells us there is even more information inside the flap. I don’t know what more you need than what’s already on the outside but it’s there. “Bulbs grown from cultivated stock” lets us know that these bulbs weren’t harvested from the wild, they were grown on purpose to sell to consumers like you and I.
The two diagrams tells us the size of the bulb and, a repeat from the front, how tall the flower will get.
The planting diagram tells us to plant the bulbs about 5 cm or 2″ apart, at a depth of 5 cm or 2″. This gives us an idea of the recommended planting depth and distance. I don’t always follow it exactly (especially the distance part) but this is good information to have.
The two circles on the next diagram tell us that these bulbs are good to be grown in part shade (the circle that’s half black and half yellow) to full sun (the yellow circle).
The calendar is handy, but can be misleading. It tells us that these bulbs may bloom in January, February and March, and that we are free to plant them from September to December. I suspect that this brand of bulbs, with this exact packaging, is sold all across Canada. So these bulbs may indeed bloom in January–in Victoria, B.C. But I know that in Toronto, Ontario (or Sudbury or Thunder Bay) that’s not going to be the case.
Then we have the company information and the information that these bulbs were grown in Holland–where 60% of the world’s bulbs are produced.
So after reading the front and the back of this package of bulbs I determined that I wanted to buy them. But did I want to buy this particular package of bulbs?
The bulbs themselves are in a semi-transparent pouch so that you can, and should, inspect them. I was looking for bulbs that hadn’t yet sprouted, were firm, and didn’t show any signs of mould or decay. These bulbs looked to be in good shape so I picked them up. When I was looking at the tulip bulbs I went through several packages of my chosen variety before I found one where all the bulbs looked good. Remember that I said this nursery had just received their shipment of bulbs? Just because they’re fresh doesn’t mean there aren’t some duds in the mix. It’s worth it to take a close look.
I purchased these bright yellow crocuses, more of the same orange tulips I have in the garden already, and some other yellow and orange bulbs that just jumped into my basket… I find that orange and yellow really stand out in the early spring garden, so I’ve slowly been adding more and more of these colours.
In my next post I’ll show you how to plant bulbs. It’s really quick and not much work at all.