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Discovering Spring

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It’s been a long, hard Mother Lode winter this year. Our area’s average rainfall is around 35 inches. My weather station shows over 60 inches of precipitation. We normally get one or two days of snow, turning our area into a winter wonderland for a few days. This year it snowed a couple of feet and stayed until I was more than ready for it to go away. Then came the Pineapple Express dumping a foot of warm rain, flooding creeks and neighbors’ yards. But, hidden in all of this precipitation, joy was about to reveal itself.

One of my wife’s passions is bulbs. Daffodils, hyacinths, tiny grape hyacinths springing up in our walkways, narcissus imitating the reeds by our fish pond, freesias, Dutch iris, and tulips. Even as the snow slipped away in the insistent rain, already blooming purple, gold and white crocus poked their glorious blooms through the snow. My part in this is simple; I encourage my wife to buy large bags of bulbs when they go on sale in the fall and then, I buy more. She goes crazy trying to plant them all before winter sets in, but it is a joyful dirt-under-your-fingernails kind of madness.

Bulb planting is easy. Find a place where people don’t normally walk, dig a little hole, put bulbs in right-side-up and forget them. Read the packages because different bulbs are planted at different depths. Don’t restrict yourself to a pre-prepared bed. This healthy Alzheimer’s surprises you with a dose of joy when spring finally comes.

Normally Master Gardeners describe correct planting times, but I have an ulterior motive in writing about bulbs in the spring. If you didn’t plant your bulbs in the fall, look for a profusion of color and find your joy there. Walk up and down in front of that property and soak it in. Who knows, maybe someone will see you, come out to check what’s going on and you can make a new friend! I shared a picture of our first crocus here to give you a start on your bulb walking this year.

Now I want to talk about bulb bombing. This is a constructive (although sneaky) practice. Buy one of those big autumn-sale bags of bulbs, sneak in to a friend’s yard when no one is home, plant in an out-of-the-way place and walk away. Don’t scatter bulbs; you lose the effect. Plant in a big bunch! Then forget about them.

Come back in the spring (when bulbs are blooming) and listen. Your friend may say they can’t understand what happened. Or, my favorite…they explain how plants can remain long dormant before finding the right conditions to sprout and bloom. If they are really clever, they wonder who cares so much to think that far ahead to bring beauty and joy into their lives. Don’t admit it! This is the best Easter card ever.

Jim Bliss is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.