The Hopefulness of Bulbs

By Jesse Eastman, Owner & General Manager

“I long for the bulbs to arrive, for the early autumn chores are melancholy, but the planting of bulbs is the work of hope and always thrilling.”

– May Sarton

Bulbs2_NLLike a time-worn leaf drifting lazily down to the ground, I feel myself drifting into autumn feeling the exhaustion of a long summer settling deep into my bones as I prepare for the crisp cool mornings and brilliant yellow and orange hues of fall. I know the gardening season is drawing to a close, a transition that I greet with both relief and sorrow. No more fresh bouquets of zinnias, cosmos, and dahlias. No more weeding. No more stuffing my mouth full of juicy cherry tomatoes straight off the vine. No more frustrating destructive pests damaging my plants before I get to enjoy them. It’s a mixed bag, so I’ve learned to find pleasures in the garden wherever they may hide, and often that means finding ways to get excited for next year.

Bulbs are, by far, my greatest gardening pleasure in autumn. Wrapped in the dull papery husk of each bulb is the potential for something truly magnificent. A tiny crocus bulb waits through winter, and by early spring it is so impatient that it bursts forth, often when there is still snow on the ground, and reminds us that winter will soon end. It may be tiny, but it is a shot across the icy bow of winter. Other bulbs soon follow, until we inundated in a deluge of pink, yellow, red, purple, and white.

Garlic3_NLAt the same time, a less flamboyant but equally magnificent bulb is kicking into gear. Garlic, best planted in fall, begins as a single clove on its purposeful march to maturity. It multiplies and divides, and soon an entire head of garlic can be found beneath its fragrant, understated green stalks. Soon, those of us wise enough to have planted garlic are successfully fending off vampires and personal space invaders with little more than a well-aimed waft of this deliciously pungent plant.

All of this is reason enough for me to power through my fall cleanup. Sure, I could let my garden languish all winter until I am forced to manically clear dead plants to make way for new ones in spring, but I would miss out on all the joys that bulbs have to offer. So instead I resolutely, if not mournfully, pull on my gloves yet again and step outside to clear dead tomato plants, pull corn stalks, and cut back perennials, all with the knowledge that the bulbs that will fill these spaces will make my life more thrilling, more colorful, more fragrant, and more hopeful.

Originally published on August 31st, 2015. Updated on August 30th, 2019.