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Bulb Addiction

I usually get myself in trouble in the winter months when it’s cold outside and I’m perusing beautiful bulb catalogues. While sitting by the fire with a glass of wine, I order whatever strikes my fancy without concern about how much time I’ll have to spend planting them in the fall. After submitting my order with great anticipation, I get busy with the upcoming season and forget all about that sizeable bulb order I placed back in February. Until I receive the shipping acknowledgement, that is.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
This year’s bulb order was a bit overwhelming.

Despite the size of the order, somehow, I always manage to get them in the ground. One of the nice things about buying bulbs from reputable companies is that they typically ship to your location when it’s time to plant in your growing zone.

When I first started planting bulbs, I would carefully measure to make sure the bulb was placed in the ground at exactly the right depth. I no longer take that approach. Now I plant each bulb at a depth approximately twice as deep as the bulb is tall. Don’t fret if they aren’t the perfect depth. In my experience, approximate works. Plants adapt. I also used to space individual bulbs according to the directions that accompanied them. Now, instead of planting one bulb in each hole, I plant smaller bulbs in groups of 3 or 5 for an immediate naturalized effect. Sometimes it’s hard to determine which part of the bulb is the top. Anemone blanda is an example of this. When in doubt, plant the bulb on its side. Plants want to survive and typically find a way to grow and thrive if you give them a decent chance.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Bulbs planted in groups of five for a natural look.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Despite being planted last fall, these bulbs already look naturalized.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Anemone blanda might be a bit difficult to plant since they don’t have a distinctive top and bottom, but they are worth the angst when they put on their spring show.

I have had greater success with certain bulbs versus others. Deer love tulips but they tend to leave daffodils alone since they are poisonous. Crocus tommasiniana and Allium show pest resistance also. What would late winter/early spring be without Galanthus (snowdrops)? Or Scilla (Siberian squill)? Or Chinodoxa (Glory of the Snow)? I digress. I guess I’ve made my obsession with bulbs known!

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Daffodils come in many different sizes and colors. Tete a Tete is a great miniature variety.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Galanthus and Crocus make great garden companions.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Giant Allium ‘Globemaster’ adds structure to the border.
Lasting landscapes by Carol
Chinodoxa naturalized in a lawn at Winterthur’s March Bank.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Scilla grows happily in my woodland garden.

In addition to the more common bulbs, unusual bulbs provide a pop of color or an interesting texture to an established garden. Try Eremurus (Foxtail lily), Sternbergia lutea (Winter Daffodil), or Frittilaria for a wow factor. When placing bulbs in the garden, think about the life cycle of the plant. Ideally, you’ll want the decaying bulb foliage to be masked with the emerging foliage of another nearby plant. Planning ahead will serve you well as you layer bulbs with other plants in the garden.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Sternbergia growing in a rock garden.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Eremurus (Foxtail Lilies) add a graceful texture to this space at The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park in Michigan.
Lasting Landscapes by Carol
Frittilaria prepares to steal the show.

As far as sourcesfor bulbs, my friend Bridget, who is also active in the Pacific Bulb Society, recommends Van Engelen (for volume), their sister company John Scheepers (for less) and Brent and Becky’s (for specialty). The admin of a Facebook gardening group I belong to recommends Quality Daffodils, Old House Heirloom Bulbs, and Colorblends.

Go ahead and mark your calendar now. Pick a date in the height of winter when you can relax with a bulb catalogue and order away. Then sit back and wait. You may experience momentary panic when your package arrives, and you realize you have a lot of planting to do. But I promise you those little bundles of plant goodness will bring you great joy in the coming season.

lasting landscapes by carol

Beauty is Therapy

I believe nature can heal. Apparently, I’m not the first person to think this. The Friends Asylum in Philadelphia opened in 1813. Founder Thomas Scattergood provided patients with private rooms adorned with windows, liberty to walk the institution’s grounds, and work in the farm and kitchen gardens. The Northern Michigan Asylum located in Traverse City, Michigan, which is now a lovely Botanic Garden, was built with this same philosophy, many decades before the discovery of psychiatric drugs. It’s founding Medical Superintendent, Dr. James Decker Munson, wanted patients to be treated differently. Instead of using physical restraints or confining patients to dark quarters, Munson placed vases of fresh flowers throughout the facility and made sure each person’s sleeping quarters offered lots of natural light and views to the outside grounds.

lasting landscapes by carol
The Traverse City Asylum, now in disrepair, displays the large windows installed in patient rooms.
lasting landscapes by carol
The Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park in Traverse City now includes many beautiful gardens on the grounds where patients worked and healed.

In his 1912 essay John Burroughs said, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more.” If you’ve ever declared that you need to take a walk outside to clear your head, you can relate to this statement. During the seemingly never ending COVID lockdowns, many people felt isolated. Yet for others like me, access to nature gave us a respite. We were reminded of the critical role that gardens play in our survival.

lasting landscapes by carol
Beauty inspires us and lifts our spirits.

A Garden Conservancy News article from September of 2022 featured an article on Healing Gardens. I learned of several healthcare facilities that include both indoor and outdoor gardens designed to heal visitors both physically and mentally. For example, The Crown Sky Garden at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital includes an indoor garden on the 11th floor with pathways, piped in forest sounds, LED lights that create images of moving water and a breeze maintained by large ceiling fans.

lasting landscapes by carol
The indoor garden at Lurie Children’s Hospital provides a respite to patients and their families.

I’m glad to see a conscious effort to include gardens as part of a building plan, especially since it’s hard to measure the value of a garden on a spreadsheet. We all know that gardens are expensive to implement and require constant maintenance to look their best. Yet in my opinion, we must give every person that connection to the natural world. When I see someone speeding down the road unnecessarily, or being unkind, I think to myself, “That person needs some garden therapy.” And I mean it.

lasting landscapes by carol
A naturalistic meadow surrounds the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago.
lasting landscapes by carol
While it may be hard to assign the value of this garden in dollars, I believe the value is real.
lasting landscapes by carol
Lift someone’s spirit with a bouquet of flowers.

Please join me in doing your part. Open your garden to visitors and expose them to the healing that beauty can provide. Gather a bouquet of flowers and present it to a friend. Or just post of lovely picture of your garden on social media. Do what you can to help heal mankind and make our world a happier, healthier place. Beauty is therapy and we all need more of it.