Tag Archives: Bulbs

Sounds of Hope During Fall Planting


Whimsical street signs in Madison, Wisconsin.

It’s a stressful time for your gardener correspondent. Mid-term hit me like a ton of bricks, and I’m swimming hard to dig myself out of my work hole.

But what else is new? It’s the rhythm of life for a college professor. And my students would hasten to add that I can reduce my own stress by reducing theirs—fewer assignments would make grading a lot easier.

Anyway, in between grade binging, I took a recent trip to Madison, Wisconsin—a brief fall break getaway to a nearby city I had not visited before. My wife and I went, along with one of our daughters and a young grandson.

The 3-year-old grandson, for the most part, had a blast. The daughter was ready to smother her father in his sleep. My snoring, apparently, is not a restful background sound. Sorry about that.


View of Madison from observation deck high on the Capitol.

Anyway, now that I’m back, I have found a few minutes for things other than school work. Starting last weekend and continuing this weekend, I’ve been planting bulbs—the usual suspects, some tulips and daffodils and crocus. The young grandchild has been “helping,” and his grandmother even got him his own gloves and trowel today.

Well he used them for a few minutes, then wandered off to the sandbox. Despite a cool, wet day, he removed his boots and socks—because, for unknown reasons, it’s a rule to him that the sandbox is a no-shoe zone.

Anyway, I haven’t gotten all of the bulbs in the ground yet, and may not tomorrow. I’m over halfway done, however. I also have some milkweed seeds to put out. A few of my milkweed were, I’m afraid, completely consumed by hungry caterpillars, killed by the butterfly that I’m trying to aid. I’ll plant more.

Although I never have enough time for it, I always like fall bulb planting. It seems like an investment in future hope, and I need that.

Also, I was watching four grandchildren for a daughter whose babysitter was not available, and tonight after supper, one of those grandchildren volunteered to play a tune on the piano. That piano originally was my mother’s. I owned it for a while, but had to give up piano lessons because I didn’t have time for them. I gave the piano to this granddaughter, who wanted to take lessons.


Small hands pick out a tune on an old piano. These hands are small I know, but they are hers they aren’t my own and I enjoyed what they did. (Yes, I’m quoting a Jewel song, why not?)

And it was nice to hear the old piano make some music. Again, it’s a connection to the future. The future is uncertain and sometimes a frightening place, so it is good, I think, to have some positive ties to it through music and flowers and Madison.

We’ve talked about taking more grandchildren on short trips next summer, if time and our lives and theirs allow it. Madison isn’t the only place we may go, but based on my our first trip there, it won’t be our last.

Among other things, I am thrilled that the city is committed to having public places publicly accessible. We wandered into the state Capitol and were astounded at how open it was—entering the Iowa Capitol feels like going through airport security by comparison. The zoo in Madison is fine and free. We paid to get into a botanical garden and a children’s museum, but the entry fees were ridiculously low by 2020 standards. And we didn’t have any bad food experiences in Madison; we enjoyed our every meal there.

Well, cool. And again, something from my past that I can also look forward to in the future.

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A Quick Dig In Two Gardens Closes Fall Planting

The hosta roots, unpacked, before  planting.

The hosta roots, unpacked, before planting.

There is some fall work to do in the yards and gardens, and I’m so busy at this time of year that I have fallen behind. A few limbs on the young tulip tree are growing too directly towards the house and need some tender axe therapy, for example.

Raking has fallen by the wayside, and leaves are constantly being tracked into the house.

There are several bushes by my deck that my wife and I have agreed will be cut out before spring—but probably not before Christmas break.

Anyway, despite the late semester rush, and consequent work-filled weekends, I did finish the fall planting today. As I wrote earlier, we had ordered a lot of fall bulbs this year, and the order was split between our yard and the yards of two daughters.

One part of the bulb order, however, didn’t come until this week. We have a front garden where I cut out some overgrown evergreen bushes two years ago. The middle space of that looked sparse, and my wife and I agreed that, since the garden is on the north side of the house and shady, it would be a nice spot for some hostas.

Now, I know a lot of you out there don’t plant hostas. They are not what you could call uncommon plants. And given enough time in the wrong place, and they can be a stubborn plant that can get out of control.

A picture from http://www.kvbwholesale.com/product/Bressingham_Blue_Hosta, the site were we ordered this plant. This is what we should see in spring.

A picture from http://www.kvbwholesale.com/product/Bressingham_Blue_Hosta, the site were we ordered this plant. This is what we should see in spring.

But, I like hostas, partly because so many of my gardens are shady and not a lot of plans do well in them, but hostas do, and partly because I like both their leaves and their small white or purple flowers.

So we ordered some Bressingham Blue hostas from K.van Bourgondien, the Ohio bulb company that we got the rest of the bulbs from.

I’m not sure why the hostas arrived so long after the other bulbs, which were planted in late October. And we’ve had some very cold nights—I was a bit worried about what the ground would be like to dig in. Fortunately, it was wet and warm today, and the ground was fine to work with.

So, assisted by two grandchildren, I planted the hostas today. As planned, three went in the front garden to fill it in a bit, and three others went into the newish back garden by the chimney. There were only supposed to be five root groups, but either a piece had broken off one or a worker at the warehouse tossed in a tiny one too small to count, because we actually had six.

My wife shot this photo of a grandson and granddaughter helping me plant hostas in the back garden.

My wife shot this photo of a grandson and granddaughter helping me plant hostas in the back garden.

The hosta roots are supposed to be dormant and are to come back in spring. In the past, we’ve usually just bought hostas at local garden centers and put in plants during the growing season. That approach has worked well, and the only reason we did a fall planting this year was that we wanted this particular plant just because it looks a bit different from the green or green-and-white hostas that we have now.

There’s much gardening yet to be done, including a mountain of raking—and when I’ll get it done, I don’t know. But at least the bulbs and roots are buried, and that gives me additional incentive to look forward with anticipation to the new spring next year.

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Planting Hundreds of Fall Bulbs

Garden hole

A hole in my garden, with tulip and daffodil bulbs ready to be covered. There were many such holes today.

Well, those bulbs came in the nick of time.

While I was on campus Wednesday giving a makeup midterm exam, one of my daughters sent me a text to  let me know that several big boxes of flower bulbs had arrived at my house. (Said daughter was dropping off a nice surprise, some yummy pumpkin cinnamon rolls with homemade cream cheese frosting.)

And today, we (two of my daughters and I) divided up the bulbs (the two daughters are getting some) and I planted. And planted. And planted. We had several varieties of daffodils and tulips, some grape hyacinth, Spanish bluebells, etc. I’m most excited by some Echinacea. I have many purple coneflowers, but this is a mix of some other colors. Tristan helped me plant them in the garden by the chimney and pear tree. I hope they come up.

Other than that, it was a long process of digging holes and planting. I had to Google some bulbs to learn how deep to plant them. We made one error-buying one kind of flower that is “out of zone,” that isn’t usually hardy this far north. I planted them right up against the foundation of the house and up against the rock wall in the lower garden—I’m hoping those spaces will be warm enough for these flowers to survive.

In the end, I was digging some daffodil graves. Just creating holes and chucking in as many bulbs as I could.

That will, I hope, create attractive clusters in the spring.

That’s what’s great about planting fall bulbs. It makes you anxiously await spring, which, knock on wood, should have some new pretty colors.

I originally thought we would plant all the bulbs in all three yards today. That was crazy, because, in fact, planting just in my gardens took all day, almost until dark. So there are still two sets of flowers yet to plant.

Well, wonderful. More places that should look better next spring.


My shovel. That and my trowel got a lot of use today.

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Crazy Fall Planting Day Has Arrived

Donnelly Roses

Roses near the side entrance to the Donnelly Center, MMU.

When I got home Friday, the box of doom was awaiting. It’ didn’t look huge, but I know that is has more than 1,000 flower bulbs in it, and I know that my extensive need for hours to do homework this weekend (that’s right kids, like many college professors, a lot of my weekend is spent grading or prepping, so it if makes you feel any better, the pain I inflict on you is shared).

I’m glad to do some fall bulb planting. It’s almost always rewarding. Not all of the bulbs I plant will sprout, but from experience I know that enough will that I will be looking forward to more bursts of color this spring.

As for fall, it is 27 degrees this morning in Cedar Rapids. We’ve had some frosts already, but I think this is the one that’s really going to kill all the morning glories and start to convince even the mums that life as we know it means hunkering down in the roots.


Roses in the front "wall" garden at my house.

At both the MMU campus and my house, several rose bushes have had a very nice late season bloom. Here are photos of a few of them before the cold fall takes them away.

The nap bear

The nap bear

And the final image? The bear? It ended up in my office after the Times open house. Audrey claims she’s going to get it because she wants a prize for one of her classes. I, on the other hand, don’t mind it where it is. Several times a week, for only about 20 minutes each time, I “measure my futon,” which means I take a nap. And yes, now I have a nap bear. If I can hide it from Audrey .

I’ll update you later on Project Crazy People Fall Planting Day. And 10 trees are still to arrive from the Arbor Day Foundation!

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