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Green Acre #348: Reap as You Sow

Colorblends offers bulbs in color and flower mixes you might not venture on your own. / Photo above and on the front from the Colorblends catalogue.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

IT’S HALLOWEEN at Costco and has been so since mid-August. Candy corn and miniature Musketeers are displayed in piles,  and those creepy kiddie costumes fill racks: Spider-Man, skeletons, vampires, Snow White. They have the same weird smell and feel they’ve always had, thin and crunchy, like organdy, but not. They feel like they could burst into flames from a wisp of a breath. 

Baby usually dressed out of my closet where, with a droplet of imagination, she could be anything from a dead princess to a cowboy-girl to your basic witch. Just like me.

No doubt, in a few days Halloween will be over (at Costco) and Thanksgiving will appear for about a week, and then be replaced by Christmas. It will remain Christmas until Christmas. At Costco.

It’s also bulb time at the megastore, with sacks of tulips and daffodils, hyacinth and allium.  The bloom time—early, mid and late spring—is marked, and the prices are fair. You can order online as well, never having to wander around the store and get sidetracked by a million other things you do not need in giant-sized containers. 

Buy bulbs now, but don’t plant them yet. Stick the bulbs in a closet and forget about them. In the DC area, planting time is not for a couple of months, when the air is cool but the ground still pliant.  

For decades, I’ve been quite content with Costco’s offerings: They’re perfectly pleasant bulbs in agreeable colors, and for 40 bucks or so I’ll have a gorgeous display.

Then, last year, I kept hearing about Colorblends, a bulb “wholesaler” with hundreds of spring bloomers, all the basics plus Darwin hybrids, which are the only reliable tulip rebloomers.  

The brilliant thing about Colorblends is that they have mixed colors and varieties and bloom times for you, so you don’t get a garish mash-up but waves of beautifully coordinated and frequently unexpected combinations of color and texture and height. Like the “Jacques and Jill” pairing that mingles mauve-pink with orange bulbs, which sounds like a clash but is a deliciously shocking combination. And, the important part, you look like a genius for putting them together. 

Among the daffodils are singular beauties that resemble pale yellow and peach hibiscus, others as refreshing as orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream, and some gorgeous pure whites. The alliums include 8-inch Globemasters, which make a spectacular cut or dried flower. For gifting (or keeping), there’s a delightful collection of showy amaryllis, and at a buck each, the sweetly scented premium paperwhite narcissus are as good a price as you’ll find anywhere.  

There are assortments timed to explode simultaneously and others that will bloom continuously from early spring on. You can also buy quantities of single varieties if you insist on trying your own hand.

Some are only offered in huge quantities, suitable for your typical baronial estate—or for splitting with every neighbor on the block. Though reasonably priced, given the quantity, I have no room for 600 yellow tulips ($252), or a collection of 500 white and cream bloomers ($210), as much as I might lust.  

Most, though, can be had in quantities of 25—for as little as $18 for both single varieties and blends.

I was about chewing my fingers to the knuckles last year waiting for my shipment, what with postal and Covid delays, but the company assured me that the bulbs would arrive at the right time for planting. Which they did, and the flowers were as magnificent as promised. 

The catalogue is a treat, witty and full of information on bulb planting and care. Visit the website for a taste, and order quickly, supplies dwindle fast (as I learned last year).

Excavating an entire planting area, shown left, then covering the bulbs with soil is how the pros get those extravagant borders, shown right, or even entire fields of blooms. Of course, the bulbs would be even better if they came with that little guy at the rear to plant them. / Photo from the Colorblends catalogue.





One thought on “Green Acre #348: Reap as You Sow

  1. patricia spirer says:

    Thanks Stephanie-great article. I ordered the moss corduroy pants

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