I must be an optimist. What else could explain why, every year about this time I spend hours in my garden planting hundreds (yes, hundreds) of tulip bulbs? I do this every autumn despite the fact that I know I will need to do battle with the voracious tulip-devouring deer that frequent my neighborhood.
Every autumn, I gather my gardening tools, my bulb food, my bags of newly purchased tulip bulbs and head out to my flower beds to spend an hour or two. I pull on my gloves and strap on my knee pads and begin punching holes into the ground with a clever little cone-shaped tool designed to do exactly that.
After years of performing this annual ritual, I have finally developed a system. It may not work for everyone, but it works for me. Punch the holes, place the individual bulbs over each one, then twist and lift out a cylinder of dirt using my bulb planter. Next, I sprinkle a little bulb food or bone meal into the hole, stir it up a bit to mix it into the dirt, drop the bulb into place, then empty out the dirt from my tool back into the hole. I do this for no less than 15 bulbs at a time as it seems to make the process go more quickly. Once I’ve covered over the planted bulbs, I poke a little red marker into the perimeter of the area I’ve just worked so that I don’t mistakenly repeat it later. (Took me a few years to figure that one out.)
Usually, I have fairly good luck with this method. Doesn’t even matter if I accidentally slice in half an old bulb buried deep in the ground from last season because tulips left over from the year before rarely produce good flowers the second or third year. (Unless, of course, you go to the trouble of digging them all up and separate off all the baby bulbs.)
For that reason, I quit wasting my money on the fancier breed of tulips from the nearby tulip farms or ordering the tempting delights found on the pages of the full-color catalogs that arrived in the mail. Now, I settle for inexpensive bags of 90 sold at a big box store because, as my husband never ceases to remind me, I’m just buying food for the deer.
If I am diligent and start in February to discourage the deer from having dinner on me, I wind up with a pretty lovely display of color in the spring. If I plan carefully, this springtime show will last for a couple of months. I try not to leave home too much during late March and April, when the flowers are in full bloom, so that I can literally enjoy the ‘flowers of my labor.’ I still like to make trips to the local tulip fields, but I find my own much more gratifying.
So, today I once again don my gardener’s gear, collect my tools and spend some time digging in the soil, performing the exercise of the optimist. Let me know if you’re an optimist too.