Tulip Time

I have not lost my marbles, thinking about tulip time in October.  This is the time to plant spring blooming bulbs.  My supplier sent me 22 emails today regarding the details of the UPS shipments of my bulbs. I plant lots at the shop.  I plant for clients too.  I wish I planted more.  It is very hard to appreciate the fragrance and beauty of spring flowering bulbs 8 months in advance of the event.  But I will try to express that-hoping it will encourage you to plant for spring.   

I hope my pictures encourage you to plant ahead. The one characteristic I admire most about gardeners the very most is their stubborn hope for the future.  A better garden next year.  A better spring for magnolias-next year.  The slip of a plant that becomes a major plant in a few years.  The spring to come.  Your spring is in your hands.   

Those brown tulip orbs of varying sizes represent a future garden.  Think about tulips, and move on.  There are lots of other spring blooming bulbs.  The spring anemone blanda bulbs are shrivelled peas when they arrive; soak them for 24 hours, and plant. The grape hyacinths are available in plenty of variations.  They are one of the longest lasting spring bloomers.   The tulip bulbs with their papery coating promise a plant with wide and luscious leaves culminating in a bloom of extravagant proportion.  Tulips fit into an established perennial garden as well. Order up plenty of those brown bulbs.    

There are many species and hybrids of tulips available, whose bloom time spans late April until late May.  They are  the showgirls of the spring garden.  After a Michigan winter, I am ready for their beautiful globular forms, their fresh fragrance, their supremely green stems and luscious leaves.  I am as grumpy about the fall as you are.  Our fall has been balmy so far-this is perfect planting weather.  Thinking about bulbs in late November-plant them in pots, in ther shelter of your own garage.      

This double tulip Akebono is exquisite.   My order of 100 bulbs last fall has been increased considerably.  A group of 10, or 25, or 110 planted in your garden this October will reward you handsomely next spring.     

Winter in the Midwest is a tough go.  Part of what gets me through that bleak season is the promise of spring.  Those various brown knobs and orbs, sequestered underground, ready to represent, once the snow melts, and the weather warms. No garden should be without tulips. I like to plant a mix in the big bed in front of the shop.  Next spring’s scheme will be very different than this.   

Should you have a perennial garden with but a few spaces available for tulip bulbs, there is always the option to pot them up the fall. A pot of tulips on the front porch in early May is a very good look.  It is easy to bring on potted tulips-give it a try.   

 Our winters are notable for the grey.  Grey skies, dirty snow, low temperatures.  Should you have a mind to emerge from the winter in fine style, plant some tulips. Plant lots of tulips.  Plant a fistful of tulips in an important spot. A plan for little color is in order, is it not?  This box of Oxford tulips was companion planted with yellow frittilaria.  Though the flowers are gone, the foliage looks great with the tulip flowers.  

No doubt it is hard to embrace the promise of a fresh gardening season right now.  Last spring’s pictures are helping to put me in the mood.    

Your local nursery has tulip bulbs.  John Sheepers has a complete range of tulips and other spring flowering bulbs available.  Becky’s Bulbs is a superb source.  October is time of choice in my zone to plant daffodils, hyacinths, anemones, tulips, grape hyacinths, and a whole other host of spring flowering bulbs.  If you are like me, you do not want to do without the snowdrops, crocus, chionodoxa, or hyacinthoides.  Part of preparing for winter is to make time for some tulips.  Plant what you can.

The Finish

I wrote about Buck’s steel fruits and vegetables the end of September.  They have since been filed smooth, and had a finish applied that will keep them from rusting.  He spent the day today building plywood crates so they can be shipped to Orillia, Canada, for a library/market square that is under construction. They will be ready to go in short order. 

I think they look great.  I am curious to see how how they will be integrated into the landscape. I think there is plenty here to work with.

Tie It All Together

I am a fan of string, twine, thread and rope.  This is a material that helps with no end of chores in the garden.  The English adore twine; Nutscene is a company in England that makes string.  This jute string comes in a can-just like the label says, it is pliable-meaning it will not damage tender stems.  It does eventually deteriorate, but that process is slow.  Pulled from the center of the spool which is contained in a can, there is no tangled mess.  How you can use this jute twine with both hands free baffles me-but I am happy to let that claim pass.  This jute twine is ideal for tying wayward perennial stems to a stout stake, without injuring the plant. 

Should you have a need for thousands of yards of jute twine, Nutscene manufactures wheels of string.  Pray I never have a need for this much string.  But I love the look of this spool.  India is the primary source for jute worldwide-the fiber comes from corchorus capsularis, or corchorus olitorius.  They both are tropical annuals, from the linden family.  Burlap, a staple fabric of the landscaping industry, is woven from jute. Used to bind up rootballs, jute burlap eventually rots away, permitting the roots to work their weay into the surrounding soil, and the plant to take hold. It may not be the strongest string on the planet, but it is a natural, readily available, and traditional material appreciated just as much as a strong and well made terra cotta flower pot.

Bark wire is a staple in my tool kit.  I know that wire is the inner layer-I have no idea what fiber is wrapped around that wire.  I am sure it is not bark-it is a rough twine  of some sort.  I do know that when I need some strong restraint, bark wire does the trick.  Should I have a centerpiece wired in a visible way, this is my wired string of choice. 

Jute dyed green is a color friendly to the garden.  These spools of widely twisted jute fibers are satisfying to look at.  How would I use them?  You might use this twine to make a fence for peas, or wrap a package.  On a twine binge, I might wrap a pot with it.    

This pair of jute spheres are of vastly different sizes. The large rope wrapped sphere is a celebration of the strength that comes from many strands.  It is also a testament to the maker-it is incredibly difficult to make rope conform to a small or precise shape.  The technical issues aside, these are beautiful objects made from plants.

I wrapped this topiary form with its sphere finial in rope made from jute.  I like the look of the horizontal bands of rope in relationship to this french beehive pot fashioned from the natural color of a local clay. This I would call the next best thing to a living plant.  A sculpture from rope in a terra cotta pot brings the garden to mind.  

I collect string.  On the left, a spool of wire covered in paper.  In the center, linen thread. On the right, string made from twisted paper.This giant wood spool is covered with a flexible jute rope comprised of many individual strands.  We make bows from this rope.  We hang birdhouses, and light spheres from it.  We use it whole-we divide it up.  We wrap tree trunks for the winter,  and packages with it.  The smell of natural jute is as pleasing as the smell of phlox, roses, or petunias.      

Rob bought at least a hundred balls of natural jute Nutscene twine this past spring.  Most of those balls are gone.  I have no idea how they got used.  I do know they are beautidful objects in their own right.  I had occasion to  use 6 of those spools this past weekend.  

A client having her family for dinner over a holiday needed some centerpieces.  I could not take my eyes off those jute spools.  I worried plenty that she would not appreciate my idea about string spool vases and fall.  I need not have worried. 

She loved the string vases, the yellow celosia, the bleached leaves, and the green broomcorn bits.

These twine ball vases and their dry materials can stay on the table the entire fall.  Natural materials have a way of fitting-even on the most formally set table. 


It is amazing what a little twine can tie together.

Monday Opinion: The Speed Of Light

Somewhere last week I read that there may be a particle that moves faster than the speed of light.  Be assured that I did not read this in some well regarded physics journal-this was in the news.  I am not a scientist-I am a gardener, an afficianado of the natural world.  I do not have a PhD in biology, chemistry, physics, horticulture, geology, medicine, nutrition, medicine, anthropology, soil science, marine biology, architecture, entomology, design, astronomy, engineering-you get the idea.  I am a person who designs and plants, and am delighted with that process. But back to the speed of light.   I learned enough in high school and college physics to understand that a whole body of knowledge revolving around Einstein’s theory of relativity has resulted in a theory of the universe that I accept as the truth.  I not only believe that nothing else travels faster than the speed of light, I think it is the truth.

What happens when new information throws what I believe to be the truth out like so much trash?  I make every effort to never approach that moment.  By this I mean I treat most everything I hear or read as either a statement of the moment, or an opinion.  There are very few absolute truths, or absolutely right ways to do things. I believe in a lot of things.  That does not necessarily make them true.       

  I do have lots of opinions.  What plants I like the best.  What soil composition I think is the best.  How best I think deciduous shrubs and roses should be pruned.  How container plants should be planted, watered, staked and groomed.  I have opinions about what is beautiful and striking.  I have opinions about level ground, private spaces, driveway design, trees of note, hard surfaces, property ownership, screening.  All of my writings are about my opinion-not in any way about the truth.  Determining the facts takes a lot of time, effort and thought.  You can take 100 facts relevant to any topic-do they all mesh into one coherent statement one could take as the truth?  Not usually.  After all the facts are in, there still may be no truth to be had.  My Mom was a scientist.  For all her love of science, and the scientific process, she believed that a scientific understanding the nature of life could never be achieved.  That the only truth one could count on is that that life is a miracle.   

Moving towards the truth takes more time than my lifetime will be long.  If that researcher who found a particle that moves faster than the speed of light is correct, then what I have believed to be true about the universe for some 60 odd years means is just plain wrong.  This is not an unusual predicament-new information comes to light all the time.  Some issues circumvent any discussion of the truth;  gardeners have lots of ideas about what works best.  A lot of methods work.  Every gardening situation is specific to a place, an environment, and a gardener.  By this I mean that every gardener should trust their own experience.  Looking for a new take on your old issue-read; study up.  My essays are about what works and doesn’t work-for me.  How other people choose to garden is their own privilege, and business.  I have a good friend and client who planted an extensive vegetable garden under an ancient oak.  Did I try to dissuade him of this?  No.  I wouldn’t have planted a vegetable garden there.  But that said, I am not privy to the truth about vegetable gardening-all I have is my opinion.  What need would there be for me to insist that he think like me?  Not incidentally, it was amazing how much food came out of that garden.  This is but one low key example of how things happen in nature in spite of what I believe to be true. The truth of the matter is up to someone else.   

 The truth of the matter is more about what might be observed in nature, and more rarely about what people say.    If you are interested in a better life for you and your garden, read extensively, and garden even more.  Consider there may be a particle that moves faster than the speed of light whenever you think you have gardening down pat.  What truly moves faster than the speed of light-your ability to put your own good sense to use.    What moves faster than the speed of life?  Nothing.