Tuberoses in Williamsburg, from 1736 to 2011

Wesley Greene, Williamsburg’s lead-interpreter for heirloom plants, wrote us a while ago in praise of one of our most popular heirlooms, tuberoses:

“What is amazing to me is how well known the tuberose is in the 18th century, and how little known in the 21st. It is mentioned frequently in the correspondence between John Custis of Williamsburg and Peter Collinson of London.

“A 1736 letter from Collinson reads: ‘It gives Mee great pleasure that the Tuberoses proved a new Acquisition to your Garden. I [am surprised] you had them not, when they are on both sides of you in south Carolina & Pensilvania. My friend [colonial botanist John Bartram] from Last place writt Mee he had last yeare 149 flowers on one single Flower Stalk which is very Extriordinary, but I have heard the Like from Carolina where they Stand in the Ground and Increase amazeingly.’”

Wesley went on to say, “I did not realize at first how much more fragrant they were in the evening, because I am home by then. One of our visitors from Mexico told me, so one night when I had to stay late I walked back to the garden about 7:30 and the fragrance was nearly over-powering!”

To enjoy that lush fragrance yourself, order a few to plant this spring.


When Bulbs Don’t Bloom: Top 10 Reasons Why

Most bulbs are easy to grow – and of course we guarantee everything we sell 100%!

But sometimes even the best bulbs don’t bloom well. If that ever happens in your garden, it might be because:

1. Leaves removed too early. To multiply and recharge for future bloom, bulbs need to photosynthesize. The more the better, so leave foliage alone until it yellows.

2. Planted too late. Bulbs need to establish good roots before the ground freezes. Bulbs stored too long, especially small ones, may dry out so much they struggle or fail.

3. Fall was too dry. Good root growth in the fall is essential for good bloom in the spring, and roots can’t grow well in dry soil.

4. Too much shade. Most bulbs need plenty of sun, more the further north you garden. As nearby trees and other plants grow, once sunny areas may become too shady for bulbs.

5. Soil too wet. In heavy, clay, or water-logged soils, many bulbs struggle or rot. Plant in sandy to average soils, improve heavy soils with organic matter, or plant in raised beds. Even average soils can be too damp for some bulbs during their summer dormancy. This is especially true for tulips in the rainier eastern half of the country and in gardens that are regularly watered.

6. Over-crowded. As bulbs multiply they can become so congested that they’re starved for moisture and nutrients. Gently dig and divide.

7. Too small. You’ll never have this problem with our bulbs, but under-sized bulbs are widely sold. In difficult conditions, even the best bulbs can dwindle until they’re too small to bloom.

8. Wrong climate. Both winters and summers can be too cold or too warm, too wet or too dry, depending on the type of bulb. Tulips, for example, need a certain number of winter hours below a certain temperature or they won’t bloom, and they rebloom best where summers are dry.

9. Under-fed or over-fed. Bulbs can starve in nutrient-poor soils, but over-rich soils cause problems, too. Too much nitrogen, for example, spurs leaf growth at the expense of flowering. Let a soil test guide you.

10. Animals, insects, or diseases. Burrowing rodents and daffodil flies can eat bulbs, leaving little trace, while other pests attack their flowers and foliage. Learn more here.

Whew! The good news is that most bulbs are tough and adaptable. And once you understand what they need, it’s even easier to keep them blooming gloriously year after year.