Bulbs of all varieties make good holiday gifts
A visit to the garden center can solve Christmas shopping hassles

November 23, 2006
BY JANE STEPHENS - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
EDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON

It's late Thanksgiving evening. The turkey is gone. The relatives have departed. The kitchen is orderly for the first time this week. You can now kick off your shoes, pick up the paper and read the numerous ads in preparation for tomorrow - that all too exciting first day of fun and games that we call Christmas shopping.

HARD-TO-BUY-FOR FOLKS

In all of those enticing ads, there in nothing for Great Aunt Sukie who has recently moved into an assisted living complex. There is nothing that is right for a welcome gift for your new neighbors down the street. There is nothing for that extra special teacher that is not too cutesy. The budget is firm. What is one to do? The answer to all of these gift problems is as near as the local nursery or garden center.

HOW ABOUT BULBS?

There are close to 100 types of bulbs. We are all familiar with our favorites - tulips, lilies, daffodils and irises. Now, as Master Gardeners, we know that there are bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes. As there will be no test at the end of this article, all of the above shall be referred to under the great umbrella of "bulbs."

SHOPPING

When picking out your gift bulbs, always shop at your local nursery, as they will stock the bulbs that grow well in the Victoria area. Each selection comes with instructions for planting and storage.

Remember that the bulbs are living plants and need to be handled accordingly. They will not like to be dropped, frozen or sealed in a plastic bag. Your nursery will have a selection of containers for planting the bulbs or will plant them for you. If you prefer, they will also have bulbs ready for giving that are in full bloom.

Check when you go in - as some of the nurseries do deliver. Several of the nurseries that I visited had several books on Texas bulbs that would be an ideal gift for any gardener.

PLANTING

Most of the bulbs that we grow in this area do not have to be forced into dormancy. The ever-popular tulip, however, does not fall into this category. In order to force into dormancy the bulbs need to be refrigerated - very carefully. Put the bulbs into your vegetable bin using a paper or mesh sack. They will need to be refrigerated for eight to 10 weeks.

For the bulbs that you do not plan to plant immediately, keeping them around 55-60 degrees will assure their dormancy.

Most of your other bulbs will not need this treatment. When planting the bulbs you may choose any type of container as long as it is the right size and has the proper drainage. Your container will need to be a least twice as high as the bulbs. The bulbs can be planted close together as long as they do not touch each other and have enough room for soil between them. Bulbs do demand a loose, crumbly soil. If you put the soil in your hand and squeeze and the soil sticks together, your bulbs will not be happy campers. They do not want to be pushed down into the soil as that can damage their base. They do want their shoulders covered but it is imperative that their little tops peek out. After planting, pat them down gently and water.

A LITTLE HISTORY

The lily is one of the oldest plants of the world as it is mentioned in every known civilization for the past 5,000 years. It is not only mentioned in the Bible, but the Greeks used it for the symbol of Hera and the Romans for the symbol of Juno.

The tulip is another oldie with a very colorful history. We know that they were in Asia at least 4,000 years ago as that is when they were taken to Europe. The Asians called the tulip "thoulpen" which if Turkish for turban. In the later part of the 16th century, the tulips arrived in Holland. As they say, the rest is history!

GIFT IDEAS

Today, gardeners all over the world enhance their gardens and landscapes with these wonderful flowers. There is truly a bulb for all five seasons - winter, spring, summer, fall and holiday. A creative holiday gift idea as suggested by John Fossati at Four Seasons Garden Center is to pot up a winter color bowl with bulbs like freesias, annuals like pansies, violas or sweet alyssum, and even ryegrass seeds and the dark violet flowering labelia.

The freesia will bloom late winter and add color by early spring. Even a mixture of bulbs, some bone meal, a garden tool and a pair of gloves are a great gift package. Paperwhites and amaryllis can also be found planted in a low glass container or clay dish with pebbles - and in bloom later in the shopping season.

Try one or more of these as Christmas gifts. Why not even for yourself? Start tomorrow's shopping with a stop by one of the locally owned garden centers for early bulb and gift selections.