May 29, 2020

Patience, Thy Name is Gardener: Or, I Had a Case of Bulb Fever

Crocus vernus 'Pickwick'

Janine Pineo Photo – Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’

• By Janine Pineo •

About the time of the first frost, it hit me.

So intent was I on whipping my 30-foot-wide row cover about the vegetable garden in a futile attempt to save something from the cold that I failed to realize the chill had affected my brain.

But there, in the midst of my annual frenzy to stave off the first major frost, I succumbed. Overwhelmed in produce, drowning in grape juice, I let it happen.

Temptation, your name is tulip.

And allium, narcissus and crocus.

And fritillaria and iris.

All 281 bulbs of you.

How did it come to this?

I swear I only meant to buy some garlic.

And that book on diseases of vegetables. Never judge a book by its cover: Beautiful vegetables adorn the outside; inside are brown, black, gray, rotting, hollowed, cankered, oozing fruits that would only tempt you to never eat a vegetable again. All my vegetables would be hypochondriacs if they could read this tome.

Just like that (see above example), I digressed.

Before I knew it, 100 assorted bulbs were winging their way to my abode from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, which started to sell spring bulbs this year.

They would have to, wouldn’t they.

A bag of 25 maroon drumstick alliums and one of 25 mixed crocus made up half the order. I tacked on Pheasant’s Eye and Thalia narcissus and three kinds of tulips: red Ile de France, pink Carola and the self-explanatory Purple Prince.

Somehow, I thought that with this I would have slaked my need to plant bulbs.

Then I went to Ellsworth.

Generally, this is not something to be avoided, but after coffee with a friend and a meandering journey through Rooster Brother, I descended on Agway.

Have I mentioned I love Agway?

No, not recently, I think.

So there I stood in Agway, dithering over the merits of different bulb fertilizers while a row of bulbs was calling my name.

I left with a mere 59 additions for my garden. One Babbling Brook bearded iris (lavender), two Royal Crusader bearded iris (sky and deep blue), 10 dwarf iris, 12 more allium (in azure), five Ice King narcissus, eight assorted butterfly narcissus, five Picture tulips (creamy pink), eight lily-flowering Burgundy tulips and eight double Abigail tulips (magenta-fuchsia).

I was wallowing in the colors of spring and I was liking it.

I also was avoiding thinking about where exactly I was going to be planting my new bulb collection because, well, it was only 159 of them.

Piece of cake.

Then the thermometer broke.

We were replacing gutter, I hit the thermometer, and we watched it do the slow-motion freefall to the deck where it shattered into bits, thus forcing me to go look for a thermometer when I went in to The Home Depot to buy downspout parts. On my way to thermometer central I had to step past – of course – the bulb collection.

Boxes and boxes of them.

I couldn’t resist a bag of 24 Pickwick crocus, my favorite with its purple and white stripes. I also got 12 Flower Record crocus in a heady purple. For kicks, I tossed in 24 fritillaria named Uva-Vulpis that are so hideous they are cute; the bell-shaped blossoms are a maroon-black with the insides a sulphorous yellow.

One can never have enough daffodils so I picked up 10 Spellbinder narcissus, a standard trumpet style, and the bag of eight Golden Ducat, a glowing double narcissus.

I mistakenly got a bag of 12 Purple Prince tulips that had been in the Greenland tulip box, but they are so lovely I won’t regret it.

The 10 Toronto tulips are Greigii type that blossom in early spring at 12 to 14 inches tall with red flowers that should look stunning against the purple-striped foliage.

I also got 10 Renown tulips, a late-blooming Darwin variety that tops out around 24 inches tall. I’ve planted this stunner before with its red-pink flowers edged with a hint of orange.

My final addition was a bag of 12 Don Quichotte, a vibrant magenta Triumph tulip that should flower in midspring and grow 18 to 20 inches tall.

It seemed appropriate to add Don to the mix and not just because of its looks. I wondered if I had lost my mind with 122 more bulbs to plant.

Yes, I had, but there was a good reason.

Try a 50 percent off sign.

Marked down to $1.49 to $2.49 a bag, how could I resist?

The final tally for 122 bulbs was less than $20.

Tilting at windmills in a yard full of tulips isn’t such a crazy idea after all.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in October 2004.