HELEN LANG: Let’s talk about bulbs for the spring

This business of bulbs has been such a joy for me, I’d like to share some of its pleasures.

I know I’ve mentioned this before but please forgive me if I repeat myself. This business of bulbs has been such a joy for me, I’d like to share some of its pleasures.

It must be about 30 years ago (some of you weren’t  even born, I suppose) when a strong, healthy young man came to my door. He said his name was Van Nordt, and he was the son and representative for the Van Nordt Bulb Company of Richmond, B.C. How he knew about my small sales effort out of our garage on Melissa Street, I have no idea but I welcomed him with delight.

He left me a catalogue and I was lost. My darling husband, Jim was horrified when I ended up ordering several hundred dollars worth of bulbs, but I did have a small garden shop and a little money of my own, so I figured if I advertised these splendid bulbs they would sell like the proverbial hot cakes — and they did!

Many Peninsula gardens still have them (or their progeny) which appear each spring.

Some of the small bulbs are suitable for planting in containers, things like anemone blanda (pink, blue or white), scilla, cyclamen coum, but most of these are better planted in the fall or buy them as potted plants in early spring and tuck them in where they may be enjoyed this year and for years to come.

What I should be talking about are bulbs you plant in the spring, lilies, dahlias, gladiola and begonias, all of which bloom in summer or early fall.

Let’s start with lilies. I grew these beauties in pots on the deck where we could see them all day long from the kitchen or dining room windows. Some of them were possibly two feet tall where others were a good six feet and a few were perfumed as well. Wonderful!

I’ll have to plant a couple, at least,  on the balcony. Just talking about them makes me long to plant their big, fat bulbs.

It’s a bit soon to start dahlias into growth but a mention now might be a good idea. If you grew dahilias last year, you will know that they like to grow in clumps (you plant one tuber in spring, and dig up a cluster of tubers in the fall).

Start the clump into growth by setting it in wet peat moss. When green shoots appear you can see where to divide the  tubers. Be generous when splitting them, too many together is better than too few. You can divide them further when you can see where to do it (where there are more sprouts than necessary on a large piece).

Watch for more on bulbs in next Wednesday’s garden column.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.