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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Yesterday We Planted Tulips

© Another Day in the Country

On the last warm day in who knows how long, I was planting tulips. There’s something about that exercise of digging holes, putting in a cluster of bulbs (pointy side up), filling in the dirt, watering and then mulching that is soothing to the spirit. It’s a hopeful act, planting tulips.

Winter is coming. We can read the calendar — it’s November, after all. We’ve been warned. It happens every year when a blast of cold weather arrives from the north and we are plunged into a holding pattern until spring liberates our gardens.

Every fall, I buy bulbs of one kind or another. And every fall, I wait until the last moment to get them planted. This year was no exception. I bought daffodils and tulips — supposedly two kinds of each. The daffodils are advertised on the enticing label as a ‘variety pak.’ However, as I planted fifty bulbs they pretty much were the same in size. Time will tell! Truth is, when spring comes, I’m sure I’ll be surprised and delighted at all the daffodils blooming and may not even remember which ones I planted where.

This year I planted two varieties of tulips, too. One box was parrot tulips with their slender blooms and pointed leaves in shades of yellow and red. The other box was a spring mix in pastel colors. We’ll see what magic transpires in the coming months, down in the cold depths of the ground, and then suddenly tangible joy will emerge. That’s why I plant tulips!

Years ago, when we first came back to Ramona, I began planting tulips at the Ramona House. I don’t believe any of those original tulips are still there — too many critters enjoy munching on them. However, the daffodils are still in residence, and to walk through that yard in spring is a lesson in joy. The bulbs keep multiplying and so do the extravagant blooms, dreamed about, dug into the soil, over twenty years ago.

I remember when I first began planting bulbs in Ramona. Jakie Brunner, quite a gardener, was still alive. When I’d go to town to get bulbs I’d always ask, “Jakie, you want me to bring you some tulips?” And like clockwork he’d answer, “Yes, bring me half-a-dozen. Three yellow, three red.”

Now half-a-dozen tulips isn’t much of a display, so I’d try to talk him into more, but he was adamant. “No, sveethart,” he’d say, “just half-a-dozen — three yellow and three red.”

He had a spot in his front yard and he’d plant them in a cluster, dreaming of the day they’d bloom — a bright spot on a warm spring day. And, now, his memory does just that.

On a warm, balmy 70-degree-day it’s hard to imagine the temperature dropping forty degrees or more. The weathermen said that cold was coming, so like a good girl I went through my cold-weather chores. I waded into the pond — which was pretty chilly, by the way — and trimmed back the plants that had already frozen and then filled the pond to the brim with water. The fish were happy. Won’t be long now until that water gets so cold that the fish will stop eating and set their minds toward enduring the winter. Not yet, but soon.

I also remembered to unfasten all the hoses, trimmed back the roses and got out the tractor and rototilled the garden. “How long are you going to keep this tractor?” I asked myself as I made half-a-dozen passes through the garden. That tractor sets in the garage for its bi-annual brief excursion to dig up this little plot of ground that keeps shrinking, by necessity. It’s probably time to sell it. The tractor deserves more use and more diligent care. It needs an expertise that I don’t have. I always remember my father arguing with me when I said I wanted to bring his tractor to Ramona. “What do you know about tractors?” he said. “Tim knows,” I countered, but now Tim is gone, too.

When the wind came, around five o’clock, just as the weathermen had predicted, it was indeed a very cold wind. It’s still howling around the eaves of my cozy warm home on another day in the country.

Last modified Nov. 13, 2014

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