September 19, 2007

fall Bulbs - the quality and price conundrum

Although I am late in placing my orders for Dutch bulbs for planting, both in the greenhouse and in the garden, it isn't too late for most of them. This brings about thoughts about bulb quality and prices. If you are a novice to gardening, please remember these few rules on buying bulbs.

1. Daffodils that you buy from most major retailers, all come from the same place - Holland. The only difference is bulb size
2. Be careful where you buy your bulbs, and plant then at the right time for your zone. Too early or too late can affect some bulbs. Fall blooming bulbs are being shipped now, so it is too late to buy Colchicum and fall blooming crocus.
3. Only a few small independant bulb growers exist, and most overseas growers require you to place your order in July, for August - Sept. deliver. Google and write for the catalogs of Janus Ruksans, worth the five dollars, and he does not have a web site.

The daffodil that one sees at the daffodil society shows,are all grown by only a handful of breeders, all who are more than willing to sell to you. The biggest indi grower - Grant Mitsch, in Oregon, mails thier color catalog in the spring. Try some of these spectacular bulbs next year, and remember - the bulb varieties that one sees in these catalogs are what the collectors grow, and although more expensive ($5.00 to $60 a bulb) they are what your grandchildred will be planting in thier gardens. All of the other bulbs grown by the millions in Holland are more than 30 years old - think about it, in order to build up stock and test, it takes time. IF you want to be ahead of the curve, and grow the future, search out the catalogs listed on the American Daffodil Society website. Remember, there is a reason why all of the photos of Ice Capades and King Alfred all look alike, it's because most likely, the photos were supplied as marketing materials by the big Dutch growers - this is big buisiness guys.

Don't take me wrong, most of these are fine varieties, and many heirloom and species forms are consistantly better performers, but place a new cross from the past five years that cost 30 dollars next to an inferior supermarket mesh bagger daff, and one can see an enourmous difference, in size and quality. The breeders know what they are doing, and one generally gets what one pays for (but not all of the time) so shop around, and you will learn.

The best thing about bulbs is that flowers are juust about guaranteed, only the quality of the display is variable.

Be carefull on choosing bulbs that have been indoors from a long time, like at the major home centers or supermarkets. The hot indoor conditions can affect the vernalization within many bulbs. That said, I still snatch-up the mark-downs at the end of the season, when big retailers are dumping bags of bulbs. Last Decemeber, I planted dozens of bags from Lowes, during a warm spell, not everything bloomed, but the show was still nice, and the price, if I remember, was something like 50 cents per bag of ten.

This year, I ordered 1000 crocus vernus, to plant in the lawn out back, that was once a golf green, some fall blooming narcissus from Paul Christian in England, plus some tender greenhouse bulbs. Yellow french style tulips for the yet unnamed yellow and blue garden around the new martin house, and many allium for the front and greenhouse rock garden. I tried to order large quantities, since hundreds of bulbs are more cost effective, and the show is so worth the extra money! Although the first day of fall is Sunday, we all knwo that spring is just around the corner!

1 comment :

  1. Anonymous12:30 PM

    I don't have much experience with growing plants. I recently moved into an apartment in which I have a basement bedroom. I get literally no light in the room. Can you give me some suggestions on what plant I could have and how to take care of it. I'm looking for some aesthetically pleasing and not just a fern or strange looking palm/ivy. Thanks for your help.


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