Bulbs know better than gardener that spring is here


Our block of Grand Avenue has gardeners galore. Snow may still be covering the ground, but we’re already comparing plant orders and showing off seedlings. That’s why Friday found me leading a parade down to our basement laundry-cum-plant room.

The reason for the show-and-tell trip was to show off the canna seedlings I have nestled under the top shelf of the grow light stand. They’re a first for me, and I wanted the friend who was splitting the seeds with me to see how they were doing. So far, the experiment is only a partial success. I planted seeds for both short white and pink-flowered plants, and the pink ones are, so far, absent in action. It’s early days, however, so something may still pop up.

Since it’s too early to start vegetables, the rest of our gardening session consisted of trading bulbs and tubers. Each of us had hit the Costco jackpot for some favorites, but once home, each of us realized the packages had too many plants for our yards. Bags of crocosmias and dahlias were divvied up.

That naturally led to a discussion of the bulbs I have stored in the plant room. Since they were at hand, I decided to show off the dormant begonia tubers I have stored. When they’re close to bowling ball size, you don’t pass up the opportunity to boast. I pulled out the paper-wrapped begonias, confident of oohs and aahs from the rest of the gardeners.

Alas, the begonias had gotten a jump on spring. Both of them had sprouted. One had shoots 5 inches long. I finished our plant exchange with a sinking heart. Once the visitors said their goodbyes, I flew downstairs where my worst fears were confirmed. All of my stuff had decided spring had sprung — tube roses, sea daffodils and callas all sported fresh little sprouts. Even though I have nowhere to put them, I was overdue planting dozens of bulbs.

Since none of these tender plants could go in the ground, I spent a frantic day assembling supplies to get them into pots. That meant finding thawed container mix at the hardware store — thank you, Drews — and wading through the snow to find pots in the greenhouse. I had to go pot shopping for the begonias since they get so large the lightweight pots I put them in last year blew over several times in the wind. I hope the addition of net bags filled with gravel at the bottom of the pots will keep the begonias upright.

Now my basement jungle is not only filled with passionflowers vining across the ceiling and cascades of fuchsias but dozens of pots of all sizes. The bare soil in most of them doesn’t look too promising, but I’m sure that will change. The begonias don’t seem any worse for the neglect since a dozen pink sprouts are peeking out of the pots. Bulbs and tubers are tough. Even the white sprouts on the neglected amaryllis have greened up after just a few days under the lights.

My garden journals show the begonias are right on time and I’m late. The mounds of snow and ice I was chipping at just a few days ago fooled me into thinking spring was far away. But like the cardinals singing in the lilacs, the bulbs know the seasons have changed. Now it’s time to me to shed winter and become a gardener again.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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