Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bulb Trials

After we finished planting the African Dogtooth Grass in our street lawn, my aunt, who had the idea to plant dogtooth grass in the first place, decided we should fill the same area with, "bulbs that will naturalize and bloom in the early spring."

One of the drawbacks of the dogtooth grass is that it stays brown until the ground reaches a temperature of about 55 degree Fahrenheit. That means that everyone else's lawn will turn green and lush in April or so, and we'll still be waiting for another month. My aunt's strategy to combat brown grass? Crocus, hyacinth, naturalizing tulips, and any other low-growing spring bulbs she could dig out of her own garden and send my way. The idea is that the grass will still be brown, but under a sea of spring flowers.

Oops. That would be a fall crocus, in the planting beds. Double wrong.
It's totally cool to have an aunt who can dig up some vegetation and share. I've started to think of gardening, in general, as an indulgence: buying plants is costly, planting can be time-consuming and the results aren't always alive as vibrant as I would like. No, actually I really have killed several lots of too many plants. There's always wild cards: bad weather, wandering toddlers who like to live head as opposed to dead head, hungry rabbits. Results are slower than I wish. Before I ever tried to establish a yard myself, I took all that stuff for granted. I mean: I've always loved trees, and I've always appreciated a colorful garden, but I never saw the work behind it. Beyond the financial outlay, I never really recognized the devotion or the patience or love that nurtured it through the years.

My aunt has been generously giving hundreds of bulbs to me. I don't know exactly how she has the time or the energy to dig them out of her garden, shift them from the dirt and rocks and put them in bags for me. About two months ago, my uncle, her husband, was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer relapse. It is less than 2 years since he went through the first round of chemo and a stem cell transplant. Mantle cell lymphoma. There's not a cancer anyone wants to get; this one is particularly unkind. My uncle has chosen to do a Phase I Drug Trial instead of returning to chemo. Here is how the NIH defines Phase I Drug Trials: "Researchers test a new drug or treatment in a small group of people for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, and identify side effects." Later, in Phase II, researchers determine whether or not the drug is effective.

So, those bulbs. Bags and bags and bags of bulbs. At first, my aunt tried to sort them and identify them by type. She bought a book about bulb flowers at Goodwill and thumbed through the pages gesturing at different pictures and different bulbs while I restrained Trixie from sampling them as snacks. We tried to employ the boys in sorting them by type. Then we gave up and simply sorted them by size. The smallest bulbs go in the lawn she told me, the bigger bulbs in the planting areas. And after my aunt gave me hundreds of bulbs, I bought MORE. Just in case. I'm determined to get them in the ground. Determined that they won't sit in my garage and decay. Determined that I give them the best possible soil and phosphate and whatever else they need to bloom in the spring. I can't be the limiting factor in this project. Bulb flowers over brown grass may not be everyone's idea of the ideal lawn. But when and if they bloom, they could still be beautiful.


Anonymous said...

That book is really cool - how scientific!
I think my husband is addicted to bulbs, only we don't have an aunt who can dig them out. Every time he sees a bag of bulbs on sale, he grabs it and secretly finds a place somewhere in the garden...
And yes, there is a lot of work and more hidden behind a beautiful garden, but I leave that devotion up to him. Good luck with your bulbs, that's a smart idea. They will turn out great, as they have all they need inside them!

Pregnantly Plump said...

I'm sure they will grow and look wonderful. And that is so kind of your aunt. It's probably a nice distraction for her to get to help you make your lawn beautiful. It is work. I understand where you're coming from there. It is daunting.

Katie said...

They will be beautiful indeed! Sending love and light to your uncle and family.