As we crotchety old folks are wont to do, I long for the olden days, back when my mailbox, the steel one out by the road, was stuffed spring and fall with catalogs and bulky press kits. Now I get mostly an e-mail with hotlinks. It may be convenient and certainly cost effective, but it isn’t the same. It’s easier to dream over a catalog than a Web page.
The really great thing about press kits, though, is that they often included background information that went into my file cabinets, which are much better organized than my hard drive. Thus it was with a packet I just got from Colorblends. They style themselves as a wholesale bulb supplier, but that just means that there is a minimum order, 60 bucks, easy to meet by anyone who wants a knock-out display in spring, cheap as a decent dinner out and longer lasting.
I have a friend who puts gardeners into three categories: growers, collectors, and historians. The first time he saw my garden, he asked, “So which are you – a collector or a historian?” I guess I am a historian. Among other things. Whenever I get a new plant, I need to find out where it came from, who bred it, how long it’s been around, where it fits in the plant family, who its relatives are, the lore of plants. Some is pure curiosity, some helps me know how to grow it.
So I was delighted to find in the Colorblends press kit a 45 page booklet, lavishly illustrated, on the origins of more than three dozen tulip species across central Asia into the Mediterranean. Pictures of native tulips in their natural habitat, set in the dramatic wilds of central Asia, are almost as informative as the text describing them and their growing conditions. The booklet is titled simply “Tulips.” I scoured the Web looking for a site to offer this booklet to my readers, but it was nowhere to be found.
Speaking of tulips,I have long nagged you about planting in masses rather than stringing out six tulips in front of the yews. If all you can afford, cash or energy, this fall is the poly pack of six bulbs, at least plant them in a clump, a foot square, not in a row. And put them where you will see them every day – by the mailbox or the driver side of the driveway.
If you can afford a couple dozen bulbs, don’t buy four different varieties. Get the big bag of 25 bulbs, all one variety. Do not EVER buy the mixed “bargain” bag. Of anything. Those are the ones they couldn’t sell if people knew what they were. Two dozen red tulips or yellow tulips or even pink tulips, if you must, make a statement that four packages of half a dozen tulips of different colors blooming at different times never can.
I have marveled over meticulous mixed color plantings in large public gardens, every bit as beautiful, maybe more so, as my monochromatic plantings, and I have aspired to that look, much as I aspired to date Scarlett Johansson and with similar results. Abject failure, though at least I didn’t get a restraining order for my botched tulip attempts. It is really tricky to get the right combination of colors, height, and bloom times.
Colorblends does that for you. In addition to large bags of single varieties at a cheaper per-bulb price than the local big box bags, they also offer carefully designed multi-color displays. If you want the look that big public gardens have, get them where the big public gardens do. There is still planting time if you order through their website (www.colorblends.com), but be sure to also request their paper catalog. It is a primer on bulbs in itself.
Here’s the best part for flower wonks like me. In checking out this third generation company before making one of my rare recommendations to readers, I learned that the wild tulip booklet is included free with every order. Armchair gardeners can order the bulbs as a gift for a friend. Keep the booklet.
Duane Campbell is a nationally known agricultural expert. He can abe reacher at 12 Burgess Drive, Towanda, PA 18848 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.