The Goddess of Flowers has confiscated my trowel, for conduct unbecoming a garden columnist. I've been charged with missing the deadline for planting last year's tulip and daffodil bulbs. For those guffawing at home, the unofficial cut-off date was the winter solstice, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, at 2:23 p.m. In all my years of impetuous gardening, I've never planted flower bulbs later than mid-November, including the autumn in Moscow when our soil froze. Over two brutal days that year, I had to chip away at solid blocks of arctic dirt before I could dig beds barely deep enough to cover those innocent bulbs. This year, though, I have no real defense. Excuses, yes, but I could have found time to tuck in the tulips.
Early this fall, I had a grand vision of fluffing up our front-yard flower bed. I created that garden nearly 10 years ago, digging up the lawn and hauling in garden soil to replace it. I bought perennial plants from Moscow Building Supply's garden center, Living in the Garden in Pullman, Fiddler's Ridge in Potlatch and the former Crossroads Nursery, between Moscow and Pullman. Our garden mostly bloomed and thrived, but my flower-mad frenzies flew me too far. Over the seasons, I'd certainly added more color and drama to our relatively small garden space, but I had also over-planted, until the pushier perennials crowded and concealed some spectacular flora.
I could see the new garden design in my mind. Former delphinium wallflowers, transplanted into the sun, with room to flaunt their blue and purple blooms. New groupings of phlox, Canterbury bells and columbine, in complementary shades and varied foliage. Tall hollyhocks and graceful Japanese anemones, framing the new birdbath. Accents of white clematis, adding drama on the arbor with the roses and climbing honeysuckle. All I had to do was dig up all the overshadowed perennials and immerse their roots in water; amend the soil and prepare new homes for my rescued beauties, and then pop in the transplants and pat them into place. How long could it take? Of course, I dug up everything at once, instead of transplanting one small garden section at a time. As I dug new holes, I had to remove many tulip and daffodil bulbs from their established beds. I tossed the displaced bulbs into a big flower pot for replanting later, although "later" has not yet arrived. Through late fall, I regularly checked on the bulbs. Some eventually turned soft and squishy. The survivors, tumbled together in the pot, gradually grew web-like roots. They seemed quite cranky at the thought of moving from the cozy warmth of their pot in the garden shed to a frigid bed, under leftover snow and frozen dirt.
My chief garden staffer, Benjamin BadKitten, often kept me company while I plotted and dug. He made careful inspections of my progress and sometimes displayed bold initiative by enlarging and temporarily occupying planting holes without permission. With BBK's help, the entire project stretched out a bit, from my early estimate of four days, to more than three weeks - and the bulbs were still homeless. By then, October was quickly becoming a lovely red and gold memory, and my daily schedule had revved up.
Our toddler granddaughter began spending four days a week with us. Playing with her, reading storybooks, chatting during her lunchtime and taking daily walks around the neighborhood all deserved sparkly stars on the calendar. Hours in the garden did not.
Revising and editing the script for a children's Christmas play, directing the rehearsals, figuring out costumes and props, and scrambling to find a last-minute replacement for a leading role were all high priorities. Hours in the garden were not. Watching football on television with my husband on weekends were date nights we both looked forward to. Hours in the garden, especially on cold, rainy Saturdays, were not. My spirit may be impetuous, but my knees are old geezers, and they turn quite stiff and painful in damp, chill air.
So I've not yet planted the bulbs, and I'm guilty as charged. Instead of sentencing me to hard time in the horticultural slammer, the Goddess of Flowers might decide to confiscate my key to the garden shed. This walk on the wild and unweeded side of the Garden Law has spurred me to go straight. I vow not to follow the shady path of my rebellious BadKitten. The last time I fired him as chief garden staffer, BBK peed on the pansies.
Sydney Craft Rozen is already checking the garden catalogs for good deals on bulbs by the bushel. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.