Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Case for Heirloom Bulbs

Powerscourt Gardens, near Dublin, Ireland. I took this photo 20 years ago and I'll bet younger generations of this same Tulip bulb are still blooming.

"Your bulb order is heading to the barn and from there it will be shipped."

I got all warm and fuzzy when I heard my bulbs were heading to the barn. I hoped there were horses in that barn. Maybe even a cow, or two.

How cool would that be if it was a real barn and my bulbs were resting on a big wooden table instead of bouncing down an automated conveyor belt and into a box?

Whatever the case, that barn comment stopped my bitchiness dead in it's tracks. I called to demand where my order was. Mountain snows are just around the corner. I'd like to dig up a little more dirt before that happens.

When my precious bulbs finally arrived I stood at the fence and proudly showed off my purchase to my neighbor. She stared at me in disbelief. How can you possibly have a Hyacinth bulb from 1863?

Then I showed them to my daughter who laughed out loud and promptly asked to borrow some money.

I walked out to the garden shaking my head. Must everything require education?

I mean... really. How could my own daughter be so dumb as to think I'd loan her money after she mocked my gardening passion?

It makes perfect sense to me why we're confused by heirloom bulbs. It's because we've grown up gardening with hybrid bulbs.

Hybrid bulbs are cheap! So, we buy a bunch of them. They don't last very long. So, we go buy some more!

Hybrid bulbs don't reproduce.
Most flower for a few years. Soon their flowering power dwindles or they stop flowering altogether.

Heirloom bulbs eagerly reproduce.
These bulbs split in two. So 10 bulbs quickly become 20 and soon you have a garden filled with pretty spring flowers. They're tough, they last forever. In the long run they're less expensive than hybrids.

Most importantly, heirloom bulbs, like heirloom tomatoes, got voted off the island by big stores simply because they weren't as profitable. Now you know how much you love a good heirloom tomato. Imagine how exciting an heirloom Hyacinth could be.

Long live the MasterCard! Here's my bulb order:
  1. Grand Monarque Hyacinth, born 1863
  2. Purple-Headed Garlic Allium, born 1766
  3. Marjolettii Tulip, born 1894
  4. Rip Van Winkle Daffodil, born 1884
  5. Spanish Bluebell, born 1906
  6. Gipsy Queen Hyacinth, born 1927
  7. Princeps Daffodil, born 1830
  8. Orange Phoenix Eggs and Bacon Daffodil, born 1731
  9. Estella Rijnveld Parrot Tulip, born 1954 ~ which is probably not truly an heirloom. Unless we can call Wunx an heirloom, too. (What say you to that Wunx? :))


tina said...

Your profile description is too cute. I sure am glad I live in Zone 7 and not zone 5, though you guys have some awesome lilacs! We don't:( I am switching to heirloom bulbs too. So much more rewarding.

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Ah, zone 7, lush and lovely Tennessee... you're making me jealous. I did my student teaching in Memphis and really loved exploring your state.

tina said...

It is great. Memphis is totally different than here in middle Tennessee but quite nice. Did you see Elvis' Graceland? I live here and never have. Sigh.

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Oh, yes, did the Elvis thing. You should go! It's great fun. So is Beale Street - you could do both and make a day of it. :)

Wunx~ said...

Are you, perhaps, trying to imply that I am... mature... well ripened... a timeless classic? Hmmm. I'm neither as young as I once was nor as old as I will be, so I guess that makes me about right. And if I knew how to spell a raspberry noise, you can be assured I would spell it right at you.

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Mature? I think not! :-)

But then that's probably why we're such good friends.

thismngardener said...

uh, "thphthphth"!!?? nah, that's not it...

Anonymous said...

Well done is richer reconsider than spectacularly said.

Anonymous said...

Artistically done is better than comfortably said.