What goes around, comes around
Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 8:01 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS
When writer’s block rears its ugly head, I sometimes resort to perusing old columns to see what I wrote about in past years at the same season. I have all the columns from the past 26 years at hand in a file.
So, this time I, at random, pulled the file from A.D. 2000, 10 years ago. Sept. 8 that year the headline read: “Another drought results in heavy losses.” What goes around comes around and, it seems, oftener and oftener.
My lament that year was being unable to plant bulbs due to the concrete-like soil. As I said, what goes around comes around.
My annual bulb order from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, Va., arrived the other day and there they, all 500 of them, sit, in the potting shed. They will stay there until substantial rains soften the soil.
The rain of a week or so ago was spotty and minimal. We were lucky at our place to get an inch, but even that barely dented the long-standing drought.
My assistant says if I don’t quit talking about the drought she’s leaving. I would miss the last of the bacon and tomato sandwiches of the season too much to let that happen, so I will refrain from drought talk per se. I do, however, reserve the right to make veiled references to it or to talk about problems that result from it.
Those bulbs, for instance: Many can wait for a while, but early bloomers such as crocuses and daffodils need planting right away, so that root development can occur before winter cold sets in. The only way to get that done is to irrigate copiously which, in the city, will cost you. Thank goodness for the Paris Board of Public Utilities sewer cap which doesn’t expire until the end of October.
And, as well, thank goodness for the city fathers of years ago who chose to dig deep wells that reach into the Memphis aquifer, a seemingly endless source of excellent water. Consider the fact that some areas must ration water in times like these, and we’re fortunate.
The alternative, waiting until it rains, isn’t a good choice either. Late planting can mean little or no bloom the first year following, though flowers in ensuing years might go on as expected.
Tulips can wait a long time until — surely — we get copious rain when winter systems arrive. As long as the ground is not frozen tulips can safely be planted until at least the first of the year. They might bloom a little later than they would if planted now, but, on the other hand, there is less danger from premature sprouting when they are set into warm soil.
So, the general rule is: the later the bloom in spring, the later the bulbs can be planted. And, the good part of that is tulip bulbs can often be had for a song as dealers clear their shelves about the time Christmas trees arrive on the scene.
There are any number of bulb genera and species that are not too common in stores, but plentiful via mail order. Grape hyacinths are cheap as crocuses and will naturalize in some settings and multiply pleasingly. There is no doubt where old plantings of these are, because fresh foliage sprouts in September. Thus, you can plan for additional bulbs of them or of different, complementing things.
Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica, resemble, as the genus name indicates, hyacinths, but are more permanent, being less attractive to voles, which can wipe out hyacinths almost before you get them planted. The flowers are more separated on the stems, too, giving a relaxed look, much more suited to a naturalized situation.
Spanish bluebells will grow to a foot or so tall and multiply pleasingly over the years. We have some clumps that have thriven through weal and woe for 20 years or more. A good buy for the money. They come in blue, white and pink.
From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Shhhh! Whisper it: There’s a drought on.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 10.26.10
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path