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Green Acre #118: Bulbs to Die For

Giant alliums in full purple bloom. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

SO I GET HOME from visiting my sisters in Florida and there’s a message from my heart surgeon’s office saying it’s time to follow up on my aneurysm and I shrieked.

“What aneurysm? I thought I had that fixed nine years ago.” That one almost killed me.

“Oh, this is the new one, don’t you remember?” said the cheery nurse.

“No, I do not,” I said.

“We’re just keeping an eye on it,” she prodded. “Remember?”

How do I, meaning me, forget this? I do have a highly selective memory, though why I select to remember what I do I don’t know.

And how could I have forgotten the world’s hottest heart surgeon? I mean this guy gave me palpitations, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare and McDreamy all rolled into one tall, hot package.

It took me a couple of days to remember—but then I recalled him telling me he’d see me next year and my thinking, damn, do I have to wait that long?

I recall this: We planned to drive to the blood-letting place for the tests needed before the tests, then go to Costco to pick up refills of meds for My Prince. How cozy is this? Just the kind of day I imagined when we wed 36.9 years ago.

But still I recall nothing of that aneurysm, which should have spooked me into wandering around (in something floaty) considering death for 12 months, planning the funeral menu and certainly not blithely agreeing to have my hip replaced, although that doc was pretty hot too.

The Prince thinks maybe the surgeon didn’t tell me?

Best to believe that.

He ended up going to Costco without me as I had pre-hurricane prepping to do, then called me three times with three different queries: Which oil did you want again? Do you really need cashews? Then he said, Bulbs, they have bulbs.

Well now, this is a challenge. Talking him through bulbs. But it must be done as the availability of Costco bulbs is ephemeral, always a month too early and then gone forever, probably by the time I could get to the store, should I live. And they have the best deals on bulbs.

“Tulips?” he said.

“Of course,” I told him. “Pink and purple, please.”

He reads from the bags. “Van Eijk?”

“No, they’re red.” (Look at the pictures on the bags!)

“Queen of the Night?”

“That’s black, not black. Pink. Purple. Do they have mid-spring?”

“Mid-spring?” he said. I sense a rising note of hysteria. Why didn’t I go with him?

“Yes, they come early, mid and late,” I said, not getting into how in action this can depend on light and heat and so forth, just keep it simple. He’ll panic.

“The bags will be marked mid-spring,” I told him.

Timing is important in a small patch of garden like ours, where the tulips must be pulled after blooming to make way for summer. I want them done and out by early April. My main flower growing is before the Kwanzan cherry has blasted its way into the yard with a umbrella of pink blossoms so vast the sun can scarcely be called dappled.

He gets 25 deep purple bulbs called Ronaldo (kind of sexy-sounding) and 25 pale pink Synaeda Amor (let’s say that together) in a bag marked mid-spring. The timing and color are fine. I am not fussy.

Then he said, “They have alliums.”

“Hoo boy, alliums,” I murmured. I adore alliums. “How much?”

“Ummm, 36 for $12.95,” he read.


“36 Purple Sensation alliums, $12.95.” I can see him standing there, reading glasses sliding down his skinny Irish nose, studying the bag, wanting to get it right. He’s a little afraid of me, I don’t know why. “Blooms late spring,” he began. “Height 30”, plant spacing . . . ”

TMI, I would say if I said such a thing. “Wait! Seriously?” I stop him, “36 alliums for $12.95? Six for $12.95 is more like it.”

You might not think this is worth all the italics but holy CRAP. Maybe they’re mismarked? Maybe he should get two bags? What would I do with 2 x 36 bulbs, whatever that is?

It would be like the birthday when my mom made a standing rib roast—two ribs—just for me and a second roast for the family. It was one of the stellar moments of my life. I like roast beef that much. Fried chicken being a close second (in case you want to send me your Popeye’s coupons).

That’s how much I love those fluffy purple balls, soaring up to nod around the tulips. Few spring flowers make me more ecstatic.

“Get one bag,” I said, breaking out the pinot gris. 2 x 36 would be enough to give one heart failure.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” reports on Thursdays about her city garden plot, bulbs and The Prince.


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