imaginary outfit: setting out bulbs

Left alone with the John Scheepers bulb catalog and a credit card one late August afternoon, I did a foolish thing. Swept away by small square images of brilliant flowers and enigmatic yet enticing descriptions ("This unbelievable award-winning hybrid yields conical racemes of densely compacted blush-pink florets with a paler top hat that pales to whisper-pink as it matures above ample foliage clumps..."), I opened my computer and started clicking "add to cart." I paid up and forgot about it. Then this week, a brown cardboard box—maybe the size of a large shoebox—landed on the vestibule, and I opened it to find a truly alarming number of bulbs.

Fifty Hyacinthoides non-scripta, to conjure an English bluebell wood into being. Muscari (pale pink and ice blue, because those colors put me in mind of beautifully frosted cakes) and crocus (purple, Sean's favorite color) and tulips (the idea of "a dazzling deep coral-apricot with paler petal edges and a hint of a warm raspberry glow" on a grey spring day was irresistible). I ordered snake's head fritillaries for their Shakespearean connotations and strange checker pattern, and something called Ipheion uniflorum Alberto Castillo, the spring star-flower, to plant among the ice-blue muscari because the tiny picture looked so charming. And, of course, snowdrops.

I have to plant all of these soonishly. This would be less daunting if the soil around my house was less like recalcitrant dirt cement. But yesterday Hugh and I hacked a trench and planted hundreds of crocus; provided they survive chipmunk depredations, we'll have a wavering line of purple come spring. 

Because my mind has been conditioned by excessive novel and essay reading, I feel the words here start to pull toward A Meaning, like those new cars with lane-assistance technologies that gently keep distractable drivers in check. Can planting bulbs matter at all in a world on fire? Is it a gentle gesture of resistance against the sweeping forces of uglification in thought and manner? An exercise in privileged folly? (Probably: no, and no, and yes.)

And yet, here's what I think you should do. Find a bulb, any kind you like. Hold it in your hand, and understand it as a wish, a weird rooty wish wrapped in papery skin. Bury it deep and hope. 


Alex Mill work jacket / corduroys (if you click, you will find that these are hideously expensive; I myself am looking for a good basic pair to begin breaking them in so that in five years I'll have the ideal cool-weather garden trousers—old corduroy is the best) / vintage silk scarf / LL Bean Maine hunting shoes / Sneeboers dibbler and Great Dixter trowel / Women's Work goatskin garden gloves / Gabriella Kiss acorn earrings / Falke cosy wool socks.