My mail box no longer overflows with catalogs, not like before. Instead my inbox fills with blue links to web sites.Meanwhile the selection of hardy bulbs in retail stores has shrunk to insignificance. Where once there would have been a whole row of rustic, shoulder-high racks full of dozens of varieties, this year there is a pathetic display with a couple of tulips, a daffodil, a small bulb or two. I don't know whether that is cause or effect.
I did get some bulb catalogs, the kind that in earlier years had arrived in August but this year came in late spring. I know why they moved their mailing schedule up by three months.
Hardy bulbs bloom in spring, but they are planted in fall. Gardeners enthralled with the flowers of May too often have lost interest by the time the catalogs arrived in August, so now they send them out in May.
I suppose some hyperorganized people actually place their orders in May, while the blood is coursing with tulips. I set the catalogs aside temporarily. I had plenty of time. But whenever I have plenty of time, I always run out of it.
The Internet is the procrastinator's friend. A few clicks, and a few days later you have your bulbs to plant. Granted, walking into a store and walking out is faster, but having a choice of three hundred tulips instead of three makes it worth the short wait. And shipping charges are probably less than the gas to get you to the store.
I could give you some web sites to check out, but newspaper layout people hate those long strings of letters. And if I get one letter wrong, you end up with pictures of naked women.
I can tell you of some of the better suppliers I have used - McClure and Zimmerman, VanBourgondien, John Scheepers. Plug any of those into Google and it should take you right to them.
Or if you are looking for something specific, you can Google the variety name, for instance my favorite "tulip Ad Rem." It is a Darwin hybrid, and if glowing copper isn't your color, look for a Darwin hybrid in your own favorite shade. Though most tulips peter out after a year or two or three, the Darwin hybrids, given reasonable conditions, can go on for years and even multiply.
While you're there, take a look at some of the smaller, and cheaper, bulbs, the less familiar names that so often go ignored. Some of my very favorites are minor bulbs that bloom early and multiply vigorously.
You know my love of species crocus, not the big Dutch hybrids but the smaller and earlier and cheaper species. They self seed and soon form a mat of vivid color, often as early as February.
Species crocus are one of the few bulbs you can plant in a lawn. Bulbs need for their foliage to mature to store up energy for next year, and larger bulbs get chopped off by the mower. Not so with species crocus. They stay low and mature early. While usually they are best planted in mass, in lawns they can be scattered in ones and twos where they will stand out like jewels just as the lawn begins to green.
Another tiny favorite is Pushkinia. Only a few inches tall, fifty of them can be had for the price of a grande double spritz latte with extra mushrooms, and they will soon become a couple hundred.
When you are browsing, don't pass up the amaryllis for winter bloom indoors. There are dozens of varieties besides the tedious Red Lion you'll find in retail stores next month, and bulbs from a reputable mail order source are bigger and better than the boxed bulbs in stores.
Frankly, I like the leisure of leafing through a paper catalog. But when it is too late for such pleasant pursuits, the Internet is a savior.