Here it is the first of September and it's still warm. Winter is probably not too far from our mind, but spring is. We're still waiting for autumn's yellows, oranges and reds.
Yet, we already need to think about next spring and what it holds.
And hopefully it holds a promise of tulips, daffodils and other bulbs blooming up a storm.
Bulb catalogs usually start arriving after Mother's Day, just when we're done enjoying all the wonderful blooms, if not in our gardens, then in someone else's gardens, creating that interest.
Bulb displays will start showing up in garden centers, nurseries, home improvement and discount stores. You might even be able to buy sacks or boxes of bulbs at a gas station, as they sell just about everything else.
Catalogs are more enlightening and even frightening than small boxes or sacks of bulbs. Catalogs provide an endless array of colors and types that can be overwhelming.
On the other hand, the information in a catalog can't be beat. You can find out exactly when the bulb will bloom, not just sometime in the spring. Catalogs aren't exact - there's no way they could distinguish between Rockford and Cairo and every point in between.
What they do give you is a sense of when in the spring the plant will flower.
Look at the listing for tulips. You start with early, then mid-season and finally the late tulips. Sure, there are Rembrandt, Emperor, Darwin and Cottage tulips, but you get an idea when they'll bloom compared to the others. Nature will determine if early means March or mid-April.
The point is you can expand your season of bloom. Don't put all your bulbs, so to speak, in one basket. Choose a wide selection so you can go an entire month with bulbs blooming.
Another advantage catalogs have is pricing.
Some of the catalogs allow you to order 100 of a specific type, driving the price of the bulbs significantly down. However, you're stuck with 100 of that type.
But if you look further, you can buy them in quantities of 50, or even 20 or 25, for reduced prices. That's perfect.
For example, one catalog lists 10 bulbs of one type for about $10, 20 for $16, 50 for $26 and 100 for $45. That means the price of the bulb has gone from $1 down to 45 cents.
Let's digress here and confront one of the biggest negatives of catalogs - there are just too many great looking bulbs and you want them all. Page after colorful page listing more than 500 different types of tulips and 200 different daffodils, not to mention the crocuses, grape hyacinths, hyacinths and all the other bulbs can whet your appetite for more. You're like a kid in a candy store.
Reality sets in with yard space.
One way to eliminate this problem is to go back to the large quantity, the 100 bulbs, and decide to split that with a friend or friends. That will force you to choose one type.
Back to the 20-bulb pack, which isn't the cheapest, but not the most expensive.
That's an ideal number to plant in a large mass. If you space them carefully, you can plant all of them in an area about 2-square-feet. Sure, that's planting them pretty close, but it allows you to take about half of them for a vase and still enjoy a mass of color in the yard.
It also allows you to buy lots of different types to tuck around and under your other perennials, shrubs and trees. A hundred really makes a large statement, but this way you can have five different types instead of one type.
Finally, when buying the small bulbs, don't settle for less than 50 or 100. Otherwise, they'll just disappear among everything else, and look more like a weed than something to stir your gardening spirit come next March.