Garden Clippings by Nancy Berry | Seaside Museum & Sou'Wester Garden Club
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Garden Clippings

Autumn 2003

by Nancy Berry

The garden lies asleeping

Asleeping in the wet

But underneath that cold damp soil

Hides a miracle, I bet!

And that miracle, to me, is spring with all the spring-blooming bulbs. Bulbs have been cultivated since before the 1300’s and of course, growing in the wild since long before that. I was only mildly insulted to learn that a bulb is considered “heirloom” if it has been growing fifty years – then what about people I thought.

In the Butterfield Cottage garden, the very first bulbs to bloom are the snowdrops (Galanthus) (also called Candlemas bell, Mary’s tapers, February fair-maids). They grow on each side of the entrance gate and in our mild winters often bloom in January. Take a minute to peek around the gate posts and marvel at those perfect little white bells on the end of thin green stems – they will perk up your day.

The crocuses are next. The original crocus was the autumn-blooming saffron crocus grown in Palestine during Solomon’s time. We have the spring-flowering ornamental introduced in Europe at the end of the 16th century and brought to North America with the earliest settlers.

The cottage garden also has a few hyacinths. These fragrant bloomers were once worn as headdresses by bridesmaids in Greek weddings and were mentioned in Homer’s Iliad. Related to hyacinths, the English and Spanish bluebells are also known as Scilla. They grow everywhere on the north coast and their blue blooms brighten many drab garden corners in the spring. We have them growing in front of the porch where they expire just as the nasturtiums are starting to appear.

Here and there we have daffodils (Narcissus) (also called daffodowndilly, daffodily, Lent lily). Having tried to plant only the ones we know to be heirloom, we have “King Alfred” which first appeared in 1899 and hope to someday add the old double yellow, “Butter and Eggs.”

There are only a few tulips in the garden so they are on our list of “someday” plants. They are definitely an old garden bulb, but looking at the roadsides and fields of Clatsop County, we can see they historically took second place to daffodils.

At the last garden club meeting, Yolanda Vanveen Wilson of Vanveen Bulbs shared a wonderful tip with us, “If you are bothered with critters digging up or eating your bulbs, sprinkle them with Cayenne pepper when you plant them.” If you do that, not only will it protect your bulbs, but that odd sound you hear in the night may well be the sneeze of a mole.