Thursday, May 04, 2006

Please, Don't Tell the Police

Last Wednesday, I committed a gardening crime: I planted hyacinths in April. (I suppose this is only a crime in the northern hemisphere.) I plopped twenty-two bulbs into my magnolia bed. How did I happen to be engaged in misdemeanors in my front yard?

It all started with the masses of purple hyacinths blooming at Friendship Park this spring. They were planted so densely that the half-circle beds were each a solid mass of dark blossoms. As much as I enjoyed the decadent color and heady scent on a gray spring day, I couldn’t help but coldly notice that the bulbs were planted in an area destined to be filled with annuals later in the year. When the hyacinths finished blooming, they would be yanked to make way for marigolds and lantana. I was hoping to get my hands on those bulbs before they were thrown in the trash bin.

I wrote a very nice letter to the park staff, complimenting them on the landscaping and coyly asking about the bulbs’ fate. (Of course, my letter was a masterpiece of prose, but, sadly, I do not have a copy.) This was the response:

Hi Kasmira!
My name is Corrie-- I'm one of the three horticulturists who care for Friendship Park.
Thank you for the kudos for the park. I wish I could say I was part of the original design, but I do take a lot of joy in maintaining the plantings, as well as designing the annual flower displays. I can't wait for everyone to see the East end of the park when it reopens (hopefully soon!). It's the Garden of America and my coworkers and I have designed a new and improved "prairie" garden, featuring many natives and a whole lot of color and perennials.

As for the bulbs, we do in fact dig them and give them away. We generally keep the daffodils and use them for naturalizing at Friendship or our other parks we take care of. The tulips and hyacinths we dig and pile them by the parking lot (by the pinwheel) with signs on them identifying the varieties. They are always snatched up, usually by the time we go home at 3:30. I'm not allowed to promise them to anyone, and I can't say when we will be digging what. We usually start around the first of May, since our annuals go in the following week. Of course it depends on the bulbs and when they finish blooming.

If you have any more questions, feel free to email me directly. Again, thanks for the compliments! Sometimes we hear only the negative comments, and it is always nice to hear praises.

Corrie C

I was thrilled to find that the bulbs were given away, but, as I only walk the park once a week, I despaired of my chances of getting to the bulb pile before everyone else. Luck was with me, though. Last Wednesday, not only were the bulbs piled high in the parking lot, but I had a buddy walking with me to carry the booty. I didn’t come prepared with a bag or box, but we found that four pet waste bag (supplied free, at stations throughout the park) hold an awful lot of hyacinths! The plants were parched from their time cooking on the pavement, so I gave them a drink at work and planted them that same evening. The ripening foliage looks absolutely terrible in my still-bare magnolia bed, but the fact that they were free lends them a special beauty in my eyes.

The plant gods must still be pleased with me, because I happened upon a pile of dark pink tulips in the parking lot yesterday afternoon. Tonight, I’ll be breaking more gardening laws and planting tulips in May.

*Not only am I terribly cheap, but I’m also a greedy SOB. I didn’t tell a soul about the free bulbs until I had gotten first pickings. I didn’t want to compete with all of the gardeners in the tri-state area for free bulbs. Now, though, the secret is out!


Blogger amanda said...

Do you think that they will actually grow?

6:40 AM  
Blogger SmilingJudy said...

In response to nightmare's comment, it's highly likely that they will. I snatched a trunkload of tulips from a corporate parking lot a few years ago. They came back every year until this past spring. But that was my fault....I was a smidge too aggressive with my leaf piles and inadvertently buried them a little too deep. :)

7:13 AM  
Blogger Maggie said...

you are really nice to write a letter. i would have just taken them without asking!! good luck! i'm sure they will look great in your garden. :)

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I'm just glad to hear they actually recycle the bulbs by using them for naturalization or giving them away. We have a ficus tree that we got free from our neighbor. He was in downtown Cincinnati at the end of the summer a few years ago when he saw city workers ripping them out of seasonal containers. He stopped and asked what they were doing with them and was told they were THROWING THEM AWAY. They offered him as many as he could haul away. We were happy to get one, but I remember thinking it was such a waste! These were very tall, full, gorgeous trees. Of course, ours has definitely suffered from the attentions of our cat, but that's a whole other story. :)

10:48 AM  
Blogger JLynnette said...

How great that you got free bulbs. :)

I won't tell if you won't. I planted the tulips my husband got me for Valentine's day at the first of the week.

12:40 PM  
Blogger TraceyF said...

Ooooh, I am going bulb hunting in the local parks this week. Thanks for the tip!!

8:45 AM  

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