For most of my adult life, I have planted perennials in my garden, mostly in the form of bulbs, for their…well, their perennialness. Not a word; I know, but it suits my intentions perfectly. What I love most about tulips and daffodils, and all the other perennial bulbs, is the fact that you put them in the ground in the waning days of summer, as fall brings cooler nights and leaves change color, and they pop up each spring to remind you of the hard work you did months before. Just when you need a boost, a reminder that summer will come again, the little green heads pop up, and weeks later, the colorful buds. What’s not to love?
(Tulip: JoAnn, for my grandmother, JoAnn and my birth name)
In our old home in Michigan I planted approximately 4,000 tulips and daffodils on our 35 acres over about four years, most of them in the front circle of our driveway. I started out with a few hundred the first year we lived there, a crazy endeavor to say the least. I had small children, no friends yet, and our house was far from neighbors: our own Eden. There were 300+ wooded acres behind us, a golf course on another side. Our 35 acres with 100+ apple trees, wrapped around our house and provided a beautiful palette for plantings. So, I planted, and I planted some more. There were years where I was out there in the freezing mud, until early December, determined to get my bulbs in the ground!
Prior to our move to Michigan, we had been living on the 20th floor of a high rise apartment in Chicago for seven years, while Smart Guy did his training. My kids had grown up with sirens blaring all day and night (our apartment adjacent to the Emergency Room of Northwestern Hospital) and all the action and stimulation that a big city offers. Planting bulbs, having a garden, seemed part and parcel of being a young mother in the country. I wanted to create a piece of the world that Martha constantly showed me on TV. I envied Martha’s beautiful world and perennials were one way to claim a small piece of that. Sweet, colorful beauties, that would not only come up each year, but reproduce on their own and spread each year.
Here in Washington, it’s hard to compete with the epic displays in Skagit Valley, each year during Tulip festival. In addition, the deer seem to wait until I’ve let my guard down (late winter) and come each year to bite the heads off about 1/3 to a 1/2 of my babies. Without fail, just about the time I start thinking Hmm, I’d better put out some dried blood out there (yes, I use that stuff!), I wake up to find tracks throughout my flower beds, and ragged green stubs. While I know it’s terrible stuff, from a terrible place, nothing makes deer sniff and yell “Run Bambi, the thicket! Faster! Don’t look back!” like dried blood. Yet each year, I seem to think of this, the very day they come for my bulbs. I’ve tried other awful things, trying to save my tulips, but the deer always win at least a few of my sweeties.
(Skagit Valley, WA beauty. Personally, I believe Holland can barely compete with these scenes!)
There are few things in life that are as predictable and easy as spring bulbs, and perennials, and that’s why I love them so much. I can count on them each and every year. I dig a whole, put some bone meal (yep, another yucky thing) in there with them, and then go about my fall and winter. The snow comes and goes; the cold only strengthens the bulbs, they expect it, they need the cold temperatures. Then, when I’m wishing for the spring to come, there they are, a gift for my patience and hard work. Sometimes I still dream of our old house, and the gardens I left there. In each dream, my house has been altered, the rooms moved and the grounds split up for development, but always, always, the tulips still come up. One year, I will visit there in the spring and see if my Michigan babies are still coming up, still blooming. It’s a perennial thing.
(My garden: Tulips, my crazy allium which will produce enormous white and purple poms (in summer I have some crazy Dr. Suess like ones!), primula and grape hyacinth, for the wooded areas.)
Do you garden? What is your favorite thing to plant? No doubt you’ll see these pictures and be even more jealous about where I live; or tell me why your home rocks. Either way, show me some love. Like this post, and if you haven’t already, visit the Facebook page and hit like on there. Thanks!
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