Sunday, July 11, 2010

Out In The Twilight Zone .... The Great Bulb Experiment!

I've started a new project this year ... and I feel that I'm now another giant step closer to being a bit of a gardening lunatic!   

When I first joined the gardening website world there was one thing that just blew me away.  There are gardeners out there who go to (what I would consider) extraordinary lengths to grow plants not at all suited to their garden's particular location or climate.

When I found out about these gardeners, I honestly thought they were right out there ... in the Twilight Zone.  (Those of us of a certain age will know exactly what that means.  For those who don't ...   it's to do with an old TV Show all about weird stuff! ... and not about vampires or werewolves!)

Now I must admit, I have seen my father ... many, many years ago ... stuffing cotton wool balls between the petals of his roses just before he loaded them into the car to take to a Flower Show ... and as a child I thought he was slightly deranged, but it seems this was nothing compared to some!!!!! 
There are gardeners who plant tree ferns in areas that get inches of snow and lots and lots of frost.

These poor old tree ferns have to be radically trimmed, wear hats and get wrapped in plastic!!! 
These gardeners might also wrap up their plants in fleece or pack them in straw to protect them from the elements.

Their garden must surely look so strange at these times of the year with these freaky caterpillar-looking shapes all over the place!

There are gardeners who grow plants in greenhouses lined in bubble wrap and/or aluminium foil with heaters blazing away for hours on end.  Seeds are raised on heated trays in heated greenhouses ... such vast amounts of energy used just to get seeds to germinate.  I have to admit I was completely unaware that these things happened.

In my part of the world ... and now I'm speaking from my somewhat limited experience as a serious gardener ... most gardeners here grow plants that are fairly well suited to the climate, weather conditions and the type of soil.

Of course we don't get snow, hail or frost here ... although, included in the list of horrid conditions we do get, are the endless days of relentless sun-baking.  But I've never seen a gardener covering their plants with umbrellas or sloshing sunscreen all over them.

Although we do grow some plants in sunshade-covered greenhouses or in pots under patio roofs for protection, I don't consider that very strange ... I would however consider it very odd if we enclosed our greenhouses and added air-conditioning!!!  This would be the comparable action to heating greenhouses ... wouldn't it?

Our approach tends to be - choose plants that are suited to the conditions, prepare the garden bed, fertilize when needed and use pest treatment if necessary.  But aside from watering them and maybe having a general conversation with them, plants don't receive extraordinary, out-of-the-ordinary attention once they're in the ground or pot.   If they die ... oh well ... try something else better suited!  If they thrive ... fantastic ... and we'll water them and feed them to keep them going.

Well ... I've now been infected with the 'let's-try-something-completely-out-there' gardening disease! I completely blame fellow online gardeners and bloggers ... yes it's all your fault!   This year I purchased bulbs that are far more suited to the more temperate/cooler areas of our great country.  They were labelled in the catalogue as 'Hot Climate Bulbs' ... so I ridiculously decided to put MY money where THEIR mouth was!
I am pretty convinced that didn't really mean my particular hot part of Oz ... but muggins here waded in hook, line and sinker.
Yes ... your eyes are not deceiving you!  There's Jonquils ... for heaven sake!!!  Am I completely nuts?  This is the tropics ... with over 300 days of temps that hover around the 30 degrees C mark and humidity levels that are usually up around 80-90% .... hardly every drop below 60%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway ... my bulbs arrived on March 1st, which is the first day of our Autumn, and ... after a rather strange conversation with a person at the online nursery that sent these ... I promptly placed them in my downstairs fridge until our Winter had begun.  Yes ... occasionally I would open the fridge door and have a little chat ... well I had reached the depths of weirdness anyway by purchasing them in the first place, so it didn't seem that out of place!

Strangely, some of the bulbs began to sprout in the fridge by the beginning of June ... our first Winter month ... so I got them out and planted them up.  I had to read instructions about how to plant them ... having had absolutely no experience with these plants whatsoever!!!
This was June 6 ... instructions carefully laid out and a ruler for measuring depths!!!  You can see some of the bulbs that have sprouted sitting on the table.  Well ... nutso here crossed her fingers, toes and eyes (rather like my children when they were very young and naive) hoping all would be well ... and placed all the containers in the greenhouse, except for the container with the Jonquils.  That one went back into the fridge ... until the daytime temps. dropped even more.

OK ... so how has the experiment gone so far? ... I can hear you all asking!

WEEK 1:  we have lift-off!

WEEK 2:  still reaching for the sky!

WEEK 3:  everything's taken off!  Think the poor Hyacinths need staking however!
Now I know you're just as fascinated as I ... but I won't bore you with more collages of the week-by-week growth ... needless to say, I'm astounded that any of them took off, let alone all of them.

Ah ... but what about those Jonquils I hear you ask!  Well the container of Chincherinchees and Jonquils came out of the fridge about a week and a half ago and here they are ..... un-be-liev-able!! 

To top all this off ... before I went off on my visit to see my boys and grandchildren, another package of Asiatic bulbs arrived.  All I had time to do was to open the plastic bags and leave them on a shelf in my Greenhouse Garden.  This is what happened while I was away ...
Now, unfortunately I've had a visit to the hospital since I've been home and I'm still recovering, so these poor things are still out there on the shelf ... and still growing madly.  I desperately needs more pots!!!  I am truly, truly reaching the depths of complete gardening insanity.  Hubbie thinks I need help!


  1. I would love to grow these temperate plants as well, but they are so so so rare here and hard to grow. Lilies are my favourite. Hope your plants flourish!

  2. A hilarious post! You have done very well so far! I hope they all reward you with flowers. I brought some Himalayan Iris bulbs back from my trip to the mountains, and have planted them. I doubt if they will ever flower.

  3. You have such a green thumb that the bulbs just can't help growing. It is amazing hope they continue to be successful. Hope you are recovering quickly too. The thought of those bulbs shooting in the shed will help you get better faster.

  4. Bernie, how exciting and what a challenge!

    Well, I am sure you have already planted many tropical plants and finding them boring already he he... Btw, my calathea has grown much better now. Thanks for your tip on the plate of water :-D

    Although you would be busy tending these babies for next few months, I believe they are going to reward you with their beautiful blooomssss.

    Oh your freesias! They are much much more bigger. I notice the bulbs are big as well. So, I think mine will need some time to grow the bulbs first ha ha...

    That umbrella idea is excellent for my garden ;-D The others yes yes, twilight zone ha ha... LOL

    Have a plesant evening!

  5. Aaron ... I'm absolutely amazed at the progress of these so far. They are rare here too ... you just don't see anything like this in gardens here. We'll see how they survive the winter conditions here.

  6. Lotusleaf ... it's definitely a strange thing to try, but you never know unless you do try. I do hope your irises bloom for you ... that would be fantastic!

    Diane ... feeling better already, thanks. Still haven't done anything about those poor lilies yet and they're still growing!

  7. Stephanie ... a challenge indeed! I'm glad to hear your Calathea is recovering ... they are such a beautiful plant.

    I'm really looking forward to seeing the Freesias ... I'm hoping, that out of all of the bulbs, these will eventually flower for me. Fingers crossed!

    Lol ... I rather liked the idea of the umbrella too! Obviously someone thought it was a great idea.

  8. What a great experiment! You know, they'll probably do fine through your winter conditions. It will be interesting to follow their progress. Hope you're feeling better soon.

  9. You have taken on quite a task with all those bulbs! I wonder do you plan to refrigerate them next year or just toss them? I too sometimes long to grow temperate plants. It would be so nice to grow things like peonies or hostas or Japanese maples. It does seem it would be easier to wrap a plant for the winter than to supply it with cold. Just be thankful you are in the frost-free tropics. We are in the subtropics here and are at risk of frost every winter, though in the good years we escape it. I do indeed grow tropicals outside the tropics, just because my number of heat days makes growing temperate plants difficult. And I do place a heat lamp next to my tree fern on a rare winter night. : )

  10. Jayne ... I'm just watching and waiting now! Will be posting a progress report down the track. Thanks for stopping by ... hope you're not having any more trouble loading this page!

    Floridagirl ... I have not even thought that far down the track so I'm not at all sure what I'm going to do with the bulbs once (if) they do bloom. One enormous challenge at a time!! Living with frost is something I've never had to deal with, so I was completely in the dark about the things gardeners do to protect their plants ... just love the thought of your tree fern snuggling up to a heat lamp!!

  11. Cool, Bernie. I like that you're breaking out of your own box of what can be done -- although, you know, I also really respect how you try to grow and favor natives and plants that appreciate your climate. Seems nicest to the plants, definitely.

    You know, we have 90 to 120 days above 30 C per year -- and I kind of feel that's enough. ;) Yet jonquils/daffodils do really well for us, and even work for folks quite a bit further South, I think. Good luck!

  12. Hi Meredith ... thanks for your visit and comments. It's breaking out of the box, that's for sure ... people here think I'm completely nuts! I'm just hoping the winter/spring won't be too hot for these bulbs. Today it's around 25 degrees C with humidity around 60-70% ... not ideal for these lovelies ... we'll see if any get to the flowering stage!

  13. Hi Bernie, Thanks for stopping by my neck of the woods. I surely enjoyed this post. Such marvelous photos and sometimes very funny narrative. I love my flowers, but don't consider my much of a gardener. I am older than dirt and cannot do all the work I used to do. I usually just have the same ones every years. Come again.

  14. I never doubted you would not succeed with you bulb experiment. You have natural green fingers. I am looking forward to seeing them flower! What is the music you have added to your blog it is beautiful so soothing.
    I would have loved to play the piano my fingers are too short! Moreover, sheet music is a total mystery to me hieroglyphics is far easier to understand.

  15. Hi Bernie, that post is so beautiful and made my mouth laughing so wide. hahaha! I love the way you chose your words, a bit naughty but honest, mischivous. But even if we have almost the same climate, at least you have winters and springs, and most of your temps are below 30C. We only have dry and wet seasons, or we laughingly say very dry and very wet to make the seasons four. My mother can relate to your story, even if our plants are suited to us, this year is really very intense, so she sometimes put umbrella on some orchids. Some of our plants actually died, esp fruit trees. We can't water them because it is scarse also during these months. A hoya plant died also, and all annuals but i dont think much of them, easily replaceable. I worry for the fruit trees which took years to reach fruiting ages then just die from intense heat.

    Those bulbs you purchased are so plenty. I wish you well, i am sure you will keep us updated. I also did some share of experimenting with bulbs this year as affected by bloggers in temperate climes. I planted them in bottles indoors, not done here yet, but i succeeded and i am very happy.

  16. I am sorry to hear you have been in the hospital. I hope all is well now. It seems that you have planted flowers that bloom early spring for me. Since you don't get frost, I bet they would enjoy being outside in your winter. They would look great in the ground or in pretty pots. If you want to save them for next year, you may have to bring them inside to a cooler place for the summer, although our summer temps are usually above the 30 degree Celsius mark and very humid, and jonquils do well. Enjoy your blooms!

  17. Hi Bernie, the bulbs love you at the rate they are growing! I think if you keep them in pots and climate control them you will be successful. I have Jonquils Earlycheer growing in the open garden they increase steadily and flower every year without any fussing. The tiny flowers of soleil d'or are very pretty. Unfortunately I have lost them after flowering twice. I have lost many in the open garden, perhaps if I had left them in pots they would still be around.The lost ones are Dutch Iris, Babiana , Ixia and some Asian lilies. There is still a batch of Tritonia, love the star like flowers. A few years back I received to handful of Freesia and they are still around and flowering. Also Snowdrops are increasing and flower every winter. In general I only grow the plants who like me! There are so many beautiful plants which suit my garden, so little experimenting is also fun. You have been in hospital. I hope you feel well again. T.

  18. Bernie, I have been a gardening lunatic for years. I must confess I recently put an umbrella over a 'precious' plant to shield it from the brutally hot sun. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. Your experiment is exciting and I look forward to seeing the results! Thank you for your lovely comments on my blog. I hope you are feeling better. Pam

  19. QMM ... thanks for visiting and leaving your kind comment. Not older than dirt, surely!

    Thanks Sue ... the first track on the Playlist is from the movie 'Dear Frankie' ... the second track is from the series 'North and South'. You're not alone with the difficulty in reading sheet music ... I'm still struggling after many, many years of not playing.

    Deb ... recovery is almost on track, thanks. I haven't quite worked out what to do with the bulbs during our summer ... jump that hurdle when I get to it. Nice to hear jonquils do well in your climate ... there's hope for mine.

  20. Titania ... it was so interesting to find out you've had success with a few of these bulbs. I will definitely be keeping mine in pots, so I'm hoping they will all survive. Planting them in outdoor garden beds here is not a choice ... the ground just bakes in our summer and all the goodness leaches out during the 'wet'. Sorry to hear you lost a few outdoors. I'd be happy if the Tritonia and Freesias make it, just like yours.

    Pam ... so nice of you to drop by. Yes I'm in the Twilight Zone now ... still not sure you'd catch me putting an umbrella over a plant though ... I had a little chuckle at that one!

  21. I hope you feel OK now and will show us what's going on soon!

  22. such lovely music...i wondered where it came from...was i imagining it?....yes, gardening is a delightful form of madness...welcome!

  23. Tatyana ... feeling much better thanks! Will be posting an update soon.

    Hazeltree ... thanks so much for visiting. Lol ... yes there's music on my blog now ... maybe I should have a note at the top just to prepare people. Gardening does become addictive doesn't it? I think I'm in the throes of becoming quite a nutty gardener.

  24. Bernie, I have just posted a picture of my Calathea. You can have a look ;-) Have a great weekend yeah.


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