27 September 2004 - 11:52 AM
Resistance is Futile
Yesterday afternoon, the Viking and I wandered off to the nursery to see what was to be seen. Mostly I wanted to check into the current local bulb selection before I went off ordering dozens of bulbs from the various mail-order houses. There's no point paying shipping for something I can buy here.
I really ought to plant some more daffodils for the spring. The virtues of daffodils are legion. They are sturdy, reliable creatures. Every year they spread a little more. Wildlife leave them be (I suspect I lost my chionodoxas to moles this summer). And I like daffodils, really I do. They are sweet and charming and my heart leaps up when I behold them. Besides, I only have three varieties in the garden right now and it seems narrow-minded of me to limit myself when there are so many worthy kinds. Homestead had some heirloom varieties on display, including a small ruffled one which looked more like a tuberose than a daffodil.
Did I buy any? Did I buy a single daffodil bulb? I did not.
As I stood there with the tuberose-like daffodils in my hand, I looked across the greenhouse and saw the display of tulip bulbs. The package of daffodils slipped from my fingers back into the bin from whence it came.
Tulip bulbs are like candy. I can't resist them. The size and heft of them, the contrast of their smooth ivory selves with their silky, papery brown tunics, the beautiful photographs on the packages. And then, come spring, the tulips themselves.
Tulips are impractical. Squirrels eat the bulbs. Even allegedly perennial varieties rarely last more than a few years. Some years you plant them and get nothing at all. They're not like daffodils. Daffodils will never break your heart.
Some women can't resist 'bad boys,' charmingly dangerous men who are terrible long-term relationship material. I can't resist their vegetative equivalents. There a plenty of nice, reliable plants out there -- coneflowers, for instance -- but they bore me. And that's why I love tulips, as I love camellias and old roses and irises. They aren't fail-safe, any-fool-can-grow-them-to-perfection plants. They are vulnerable to wildlife and disease and extremes of temperature. They are stars of the garden; they require certain sacrifices from their admirers. They challenge and excite.
And so I will be planting several dozen more tulips in the next few weeks. We picked up a mix of 'Queen of the Night' and 'Menton' bulbs, and also a Triumph hybrid called 'Blueberry Ripple' which is purply-blue and white and which the Viking liked. I may [read: will almost certainly] go back and pick up a package of 'Blue Parrot' as well. They'll be lovely next spring, if they don't break my heart.