After my husband and I bought our first house, a run-down colonial in a rural town about 40 miles from where we live now, we spent our first winter cleaning and painting the inside. When spring arrived, we carted our enthusiasm outdoors, where we edged around rocks and roots and planted gardens to decorate the perimeter of the yard.
That house stood high on a hill above an s-shaped driveway that angled up along side a wooden retaining wall. Four unkempt juniper bushes with gangly branches crouched on top. To provide a face-lift to the area near the bushes, I dug 80 small holes, filled them with bone meal and planted tulip bulbs. We spent the winter anticipating the nodding pink blossoms that would bend in the breeze come spring, and it would have been lovely, I’m sure, if I hadn’t planted every single bulb upside down.
In April, a few stunted green shoots appeared. In my disgust, I never planted another autumn bulb at that location.
Fast forward several years to our current home. When our house was built in 1956, the plot was subdivided off of a next door property and was surrounded by woods. Over the years, previous owners cleared a bit; along the way, someone planted purple crocus bulbs which come up every year in the garden by the front porch, and bluebells, that poke up in patches by the garage back door. Once evidence that bulbs grow well here proved itself to me, I tucked away my disappointment from that earlier misadventure and decided to try again.
On a cold fall day early in our tenure, I squatted on my knees and planted row upon row of bulbs in a back garden we shaped in front of a granite boulder. Moving to the spot behind the back patio, I planted more. Later, I dug another supply of bulbs into the earth packed on top of the natural stone step beneath our huge ledge. The gray rock would be a perfect backdrop for a vibrant spring planting.
Mind you, all the tubers went in right-side-up this time, but nonetheless, in April, a pathetic arrangement of dwarf-looking tulips raised their shriveled heads out back, and those were the plants that managed to bloom at all. Below the ledge, a bushy crop of ferns appeared in place of my tulips. “I’m done.” I announced. “I’ll never plant bulbs again!”
Here in New England though, our winding streets are lined with tumbling stone walls. About this time each year, it seems like every sunny location hosts clumps of daffodils in front of these winding rivers of granite rock; the yellow blossoms bob and weave, shouting out the news of spring as they bounce in the freshening breeze. Loving the county feel to these casual gardens, two years ago I gave it one last try, spending an afternoon planting bulbs that should have emerged in clumps of blue-grape hyacinths and jonquils around our front light post.
Again I spent the winter looking forward to the bright yellow show that would perform for us each time we pulled into the driveway, but unbeknownst to me, this time the fat squirrels that nestle in the pine trees around us snacked well during the cool winter months.
It’s been almost 25 years since we purchased our first house. I planted eighty bulbs there, and nearest I can figure, I’ve planted about 250 around this yard. Here is what I have to show for it.
So tell me. Isn’t that the most wonderful daffodil you have ever seen?
What are your worst gardening nightmares?