Where to Buy Bulbs

Today's gardener has so many options when it comes to buying bulbs. Every option has its pros and cons, which we'd like to discuss here.

Tulips There is nothing more disappointing than putting in hours of work in the spring or fall, digging in those flower bulbs, tubers, corms and roots, only to have it come to nothing. In America, we seem always to be looking for the best bargain, the cheapest deal, but that may not be the right way to get quality returns for our investment and labor. Let's think about it!

Hardware/Home Improvement Stores
You know those big places we're talking about, where they sell everything from gazebos to garden hoses. In the fall, the big companies put out their boxes of bulbs, often at unbeatable prices; $3.99 for 30 Tulip Bulbs, etc. Now, we have bought from such places, unable to pass up a deal, and results have varied. Sometimes the bulbs come up, sometimes they don't. Buying in bulk enables these big concerns to offer deals to their clients, but they may not be as focused on quality as a smaller business would be. For one thing, the corporate companies are trading in the throw-away market. People buy stuff, it breaks, they throw it away. Many don't see the point in going to the location where they bought the poor product to complain or demand their money back. Similarly, they aren't likely to go storming in in the summer when their dahlias don't come up. They ought to, but they don't. However, different feelings come into play when dealing with your neighborhood nursery!

Small Nurseries
Small nurseries struggle in this day and age to compete with the corporate home and garden monsters. They have to charge more for what they sell, because their overhead is so much smaller. The plus side of privately owned nurseries is that they tend to have a more interesting selection of plants, their employees actually know something about gardening (hopefully), and they are subject to a more personal responsibility for what they sell. So, if a gardener spends $100 on fall bulbs and only $10 worth come up, he should feel able to go to his local nursery and tell them this. Obviously, it can be hard to pin down the cause of gardening failures like these. It may be the fault of the bulb, or improper location and care. But at least you can go talk to the nursery person about it. Hopefully, they've gotten to know you as a regular and will hear your concerns with respect. If they're generous, they may even offer you a free perennial to try to make up for your disappointment. Bulbs at small nurseries are not guaranteed to be of any better quality than those of the corporate centers, but nursery owners may be inclined to deal with better quality dealers, because they have their own reputations to protect. Makes sense, right?

Bulb Shopping On-line
A relatively new and wonderful option for gardeners. Imagine, you can actually buy tulips direct from a little windmill in Holland under which they were grown! Or, you have your choice of U.S. specialty dealers, home and garden shops and, of course, the big corporations. Fall and spring both spark wonderful sales and specials for all companies selling bulbs and you can choose from such a broad variety of cultivars. The downside is, you can't see the bulbs before you buy them, so be sure to shop with on-line stores which offer guarantees. Choosing healthy bulbs is so essential, and you should feel confident in returning anything which is withered, mushy or dried out. For us, we like having the opportunity to shop from a variety of locations, both local and virtual, as it is a surefire way to bring lots of exciting color to the garden!

Prince of Austria is the name of this rare treasure, offering a scent of violets and oranges blossoms. Apparently, the finding of this bulb caused the folks at Old House Gardens to start their company. They relate that these tulips not only have a delightful fragrance, but are also so hardy that they have been repeating in their garden for over a decade, without any special care. Now that is an astonishing quality in a tulip, as all veteran bulb fanciers know. We look forward to trying Prince of Austria out in our own garden, and can't wait to see it come up next spring!