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Bulbs, bulbs and more bulbs; now’s the time for planting

Posted: October 2, 2013 - 2:13pm

I find it a bit unusual to compose a bouquet in October of lilacs, roses, primroses and pale yellow trollius. Lovely yes, odd — definitely. 

All of these plants have given me a gentle second bloom now and then over the years, but nothing like this. My garden is more lovely now than it was in late June.  

What about eating huge, gorgeous strawberries in October? Here we are. The grands love each and every bite.

Various government agencies and think tanks continue to study the effects of climate change. Really, all they need do is ask a backyard gardener. Common sense goes a very long way. 

If any of you bore witness to me cutting down the rosa glauca (aka R. rubrifolia) in front of The Bookstore on Sunday morning do NOT think this is the optimum time to prune your roses. Two passersby paused to ask if they needed to tend their roses. Oh no. Do wait until spring to assess damage, remove old canes and give an overall trim of up to one third off to give the shrub shape and purpose. 

The reason for my unseasonal pruning session is a sad story indeed. Apparently some of Homer’s finest chose to topple the enormous wooden fish that has been residing in the parking lot for a year. It landed squarely in the flower bed and crushed the rose, the focal point of the planting. It was a truly lovely specimen, laden with hips. No longer. It is now in the back of our pickup truck. Goodness. 

I love to garden in the fall. The gusty winds, the chill in the air, the trees and shrubs turning color. The weeds do not slow down. I was taking the lid off the cold frame to store for the winter and, lo, it was stuffed with chickweed. I should have had lettuce in there, although in the past there have been more slugs than plant material. Speaking of slugs I have yet to see even one in this garden. Now there is a boon. 

Three of the grands were here today - tearing around chasing the Frisbee with the dog and the grandfather, eating strawberries and gleaning raspberries, picking bouquets. All pink cheeks and windblown hair. 

I continue to weed. The fritillaria meleagris (checkered lily) is doing something very strange. I have had these lovelies for years but this fall their bulbs are popping out of the ground. They are all over the place. Are they too crowded? I have been shoving them back down with the heel of my boot which seems cruel but hey, there are really a lot of them. My next step is to throw compost on top of them. 

I have never had enough bulbs. They are expensive, they may not come up, they may not multiply, the voles will eat them in a heartbeat.  There are too many reasons not to plant them. But here I am, planting bulbs. More than I have ever planted before. With winter past raising its ugly head every time I look at my garden, I really need to question this, but I have no good answer. I just need to plant bulbs. 

Not only am I going against my better judgment, I don’t plant conventionally. Everything I have ever read about how to plant bulbs mentions “drifts,” never plant in a line, always in a drift. Good for them. I don’t have enough room for a drift. So I plant in a “clutch.” Yes, eggs are laid in a clutch and that is what I am reminded of as I nestle a handful of bulbs into a depression and wish each of them well, wish them luck against all adversities and challenges that may come their way during the next eight or nine months. Wish for my selfish sake that they burst into bloom come spring and offer joy to all who have the good fortune to see their brief flash of glory. 

Go get yourself some bulbs.

Rosemary Fitzpatrick is a longtime Homer gardener.

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