I found this sweet 1909 Boddington’s Plant catalog and Autumn Garden guide with a page titled ‘The Secret of Bulb Culture’ in the Heritage Biodiversity Library. The pretty graphic cover caught my eye, but on closer inspection, I also learned a few things about how to tell if you have good bulb or a less good bulb …. I’ve pulled out the tidbits of great bulb advice below — but I’ve included the whole page at the bottom so that you can read it for yourself.
How to tell if you have a good bulb?
“To convince ourselves of this, all we have to do is to cut open a bulb and, if we have patience and a good magnifying glass, we can count every blossom which that bulb bad the possibility of making.”
What a great bit of information! – I had no idea that you could dissect bulbs to see how many flowers would come. Certainly you don’t want to do this with every bulb as I suspect it will ruin the bulb for growing, but I think it interesting to think that we can do a bit of consumer confidence investigation of our own and see just how well a sample bulb will perform. I’ve generally been pretty happy with the bulbs I’ve purchased in the last few years, but I do recall years where performance was less than stellar – I’d love to do a side by side comparison.
Does Bulb Size Matter?
“A first-size crocus bulb should measure three inches in circumference and produce four to six flowers.”
I wonder if this is still true — or if our bulbs are even bigger now – over 100 years later – and producing even more flowers. I need to pay better attention! But suffice to say, bulb size does matter (when comparing like with like)
How can you tell a quality bulb?
“How can one tell a quality bulb? As a rule, the bigger the bulb, the more the flowers and the higher the price, but-that isn’t all! You want a bulb that is heavy for its size. It is the solid, close-grained bulb that has the hardiness to resist wet and cold; it is the loose, sappy one that falls an easy prey to disease.”
This is definitely a great tip of you have the opportunity to hold different bulbs side by side. Go for the heavier one!
How to make bulbs perform better?
Bulbs have one weak point. They are sensitive to stagnant water. Put a little sand under each bulb, if you are in doubt, or, better still, throw out the heavy soil to the depth of two feet, put in a layer of broken bricks or stones for drainage and fill in with good soil.”
I’ve never had this trouble….but good to know – just in case. I’ve successfully got all my bulbs in the ground – how about you? The weather here in New England is certainly cooperating to give time for planting just a few more.