By Steve Smith
The dark season is upon us, and it seems to have arrived a couple of months early.
September and October have both been unusually wet, which cuts down on my time to spend in the garden and prematurely kicks off my seasonal affect disorder, aka SAD. Dealing with winter depression is a common challenge for many of us in the Northwest. Unlike “snow birds”, we just have to stick it out.
The best antidote to the winter blues is to plant bulbs in October – that gives me something to look forward to.
Bulbs come in all sizes and bloom times, and you don’t have to wait 3 to 4 months to see the fruits of your labor.
Bulbs, like Colchicums and Saffron Crocus, actually bloom in the fall and can be purchased from garden centers right now and planted in our gardens where they will naturalize and repeat bloom year after year.
Grape hyacinths will start to put up new green shoots as early as November and cover the ground with lush foliage for months before they bloom in late winter. The same is true for Pushkinia and Chionodoxa – both of which are known as “minor bulbs”, which lend themselves to rockeries and the edges of borders where they will multiply and live for decades with no intervention from us. Moving into January brings the happy little yellow faces of Winter Aconites front and center, along with the first signs of daffodils and narcissus. Somewhere around February, the Dutch hyacinths start to bloom followed by an array of daffodils and by late March and most of April the tulips strut their stuff. Finally, as late as May or even June, the alliums with their giant blue globes come into their own and by that time everything else in the garden is awake and growing like crazy, and our endorphins are flowing like gang busters. Any feelings of depression will be long gone by then.
Bulbs are so incredibly simple that it is a shame more gardeners don’t partake in them.
“Dig. Drop. Done.” pretty much sums up the time and effort it takes to succeed with bulbs. They are that easy.
Perhaps the hardest part of gardening with bulbs is getting off the couch on a cold rainy day and driving down to the garden center to purchase them. You could stay home in your jammies and order them online, but it’s not the same as picking up a netted package, smelling the residual dirt still clinging to their withered up roots, checking them for firmness knowing that they haven’t been subjected to desiccation or freezes in some Amazon delivery truck, and literally feeling the life that lies under all those layers of scales. In my book, there is no better antidepressant than touching a living object, and bulbs are just that. October is the prime month to plant bulbs so don’t miss out. It could very well be what gets you through the long dark days of winter.
Steve Smith owns of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org