Falling For Spring

Fall is in the air. While some people are busy downing  pumpkin spice lattes and dreaming of cozy fires, many gardeners are fantasizing about spring. Correction, they are already diligently preparing and planning for spring. For them, their gardening desires have already fully sprung and it’s time to get busy. 

Who are these crazy spring day preppers? They are probably your neighbors, your grandma, or even that curmudgeon of a human that cut you off in line at the grocery store. You see, reports suggest that there are over 63 million gardeners in America alone. That’s a striking number and a whole lot of people mucking around happily in the dirt. 

Sure, there are all kinds of gardeners. Not all of the 63 million gardeners garden in the same way. For instance, there is no denying that there are those who only dabble in house plants. Spraying and misting to their heart’s content. Or, those who would only dream of growing their own greens. Yes, there is every manner of gardener. Today, however, we are only talking about those who are daffy for daffodils  and batty for bulbs. 

No, we totally understand that fall is a frightfully fun time of year. Fall is of course filled with apples, pumpkins, and all those insanely fun stirrings of holiday cheer. But, there are some gardeners who aren’t busy getting cozy and warm. There are some varieties of gardeners who are busy prepping, and digging, and thankful for that last awful rain storm. Yes, we are aware and apologize that this last point was just emphasized in the form of a rhyme. 

Fall, to a flower bulb grower, is probably one of the most magical times of year. Second of course only to Spring. Fall is when all that summer life in the garden starts to finally slow down. While most people are sad when the  summer blooms fade and die, that silly spring bulb planter is likely secretly giddy and glad.  Plants don’t just go to seed, most of them also quietly recede. 

Sure, fall is also a lot of work. Many plants in the garden are deciduous and shed their leaves. Those beautiful greens often turn to bright yellows and reds and then to brown lumps all over the ground. Cue the leaf piles, leaf pile jumping, and an infinite amount of leaf raking. 

Of course the spring bulb gardener respects and understands that it’s sad to some when all those boisterous plants of summer quietly start to fall asleep. They also accept that not everyone loves when the rains start to come. With those rains inevitably come muck and mud and more floor mopping. But, also with the rain the dry earth gets incredibly soft and inviting. 

Instead of feeling sad for another summer gone, the spring flower bulb gardener finds hope.  Finally, day after day, week after week, the garden slowly starts to tell the gardener that there is room and desire for more. 

Gardeners in general are an incredibly optimistic bunch. They kind of have to be. A lot of what happens is out of their control. Sometimes no matter how much care and love they provide it just isn’t enough. Plants die. Despite the heartache, the death, the disease they march and mulch on. 

The spring bulb gardeners, however,  have a unique breed of optimism and patience. They happily take bags and piles expensive ugly lumps, bury them  in the ground. They next spend all winter long dreaming of a colorful spring. 

As a side note it is granted that the hyacinth bulb isn't really that ugly. They are likely the exception to the rule. Many would actually find them to be quite pretty with their unique shimmering skin. They almost have a pearlescent quality to them. Most other bulbs, however, are not that attractive. They would remind someone of  pieces of bark or dried deer poop. 

Pardon the digression. The point is merely, that despite the mud, the muck, or the freezing rain a true spring bulb gardener digs on. With spirits high and an aching arm they just assume that all their hard work will be worth all the trouble and expense. 

So what keeps these spring bulb gardeners digging on?  In short, beautiful blooms. Think Allium, Crocus, Daffodils, Hyacinth, Iris and more.

Alliums are probably one of the more interesting spring bulbs to plant. Not because they have gorgeous blooms. Yes, their long green stems with large poofy type heads can be exciting and attractive. They are interesting, because they often have a strong onion type smell. There are over 500 species of the Allium plant. That grouping  includes things like onions, scallions, and chives.

Crocus are probably the most under-appreciated of the spring bulbs. With their tiny bulbs that burst into tiny flowers never seem to get much love at the garden centers. It is probably, because they just don’t seem to have that same spring wow factor as the tulip or daffodil. The crocus, however, honestly just needs better PR. These little flowers are one of the first to bloom in the winter. They also tend to multiply and come back year after year.

Daffodils, which also go by Narcissus, have deep historical roots.  In Greek mythology the Narcissus flower came to be after a hunter fell in love with own reflection in a pool of water. Upon his death beautiful flowers sprouted from the ground and those plants now bear his name.  These hardy perennials are a spring bulb gardeners true friend and will likely grow again and again year after year.

Hyacinth are a beautiful bunch. They also have Greek roots. They are said to have sprung from the blood of a young man who was accidentally killed by either Apollo or Zephyr depending on the tale. They come in a variety of colors. They are, however, a more finicky bunch. Their flower stalks tend to produce less prolific blooms year after year. While they have the prettiest of the bulbs they are actually considered a bit toxic. It is recommended that a person wear gloves while handling them.

Tulips are probably the most heralded spring bulb and flower. They are prized for their large and showy blooms. Their cultivation began in Persia, although we often think of them as being Dutch. They are known as a perennial, but they are not a typically hardy bunch. Most spring bulb gardeners find themselves planting them again each and every year.

There are more than 250 species of Irises. Some bloom in spring and some in summer. Perhaps the most beautiful of them all is the bearded type. Irises can be a funny plant. There is a gardener’s saying that the Iris likes wet feet but dry knees. They will rot if their upper portion gets too wet.

Of course there are other types of  spring bulbs out . The list above only touches on the most readily available varieties. Perhaps, what some would call the most enthralling of the pack.  

To the person who is reading this who is not a gardener yet, perchance it’s time to consider picking up a trowel. Gardening after all can be very therapeutic. Sixty-Three million Americans can’t be all wrong. 

To the gardener who hasn’t ventured into spring bulbs yet maybe a small warning is due. What was once therapeutic can quickly become addicting. With every successful spring bloom one might find themselves questioning why they didn’t plant more. Soon from September to November (depending on your location) you might be finding yourself trading in your pumpkin spice latte for a tip to the local garden store. 

(Image Credit:PetuniasandMarmalade)


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