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Diggin' It

The Transplanted Gardener: The dirt on bulbs

By Craig Summers Black / May 21, 2009



To make my friends on the coasts understand the time difference with my adopted home in the Midwest, I have to explain it like this:

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When it is noon in New York, it is 9 a.m. in San Francisco. And in Iowa, it is … 1953.

So, too, are the not-so-subtle differences in the seasonal gardening calendar:

In the bulb nirvana of the Netherlands, the daffs and tulips and yadda-yadda emerge and flower through perennial foliage and must deftly complement the colors of said perennials.

In central Iowa, bulbs emerge solo to a bleak landscape. I have only to pair the many bulb blossoms in my yard with, well, brown – mud and mulch are their not-so-painterly background.

So in the Netherlands, you have this:
An interplay of bleeding hearts, tulips, grape hyacinth and – what?– geranium? This hardly seems fair.

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And in my garden, you have this:

That would be an ornamental onion, one of many, standing in a field of, on  a wet day, chocolate, and, on a dry day, khaki. Sigh.

So it is with the daffodils, the tulips, the hyacinths … You get the picture.The solution is for a gardener beyond my means to jam-pack the bulbs cheek-by-jowl into the beds and borders. Since they will be out there sans perennials, might as well try your best to blanket the brown.

Once again, I have learned that excess is not enough. I’m getting there. (Although it must be said, the lawn really does look good this time of year. And, perhaps, only this time of year.)

Another solution is to display your cut bulb flowers at an unaccustomed level – up high instead of down in the dirt. Like so:

Yes, this photo was also taken in Holland, but the idea translates to this side of the pond. As famed landscaper Abbie Hoffman might have said: Steal this idea!

Editor's note:  To read more of the Transplanted Gardener's blog posts, click here, here, here, here, and here.

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