Bulbs to Plant, Bulbs to Store; Avoiding a Gardening Oops.

Welcome to December and the monthly Gardening Oops … the GOOPs confessional. On the first of each month, here at joene’s garden, it’s time to fess up a GOOPs, a garden-related miss-step or downright mistakes. The December 2012 GOOPs theme is too much to do, too little time, all revolving around bulbs and tubers.

Autumn is planting time for spring-blooming bulbs.  My order of Hyacinthoides (Spanish Bluebells), Camassia quamash, Dutch Iris, and two varieties of Crocus tommasinianus arrived and promptly went to the garage for safe keeping until planting.

The hyacinthoides and Camassia found permanent soil-based homes a week ago, with the helping hands of three-year-old granddaughter Avery – her first experience helping grandma plant bulbs.

Not so for the iris and crocus. They remain packaged in the garage.


Does this qualify as a GOOPs? Not yet. Even in December, in southern Connecticut, it’s not too late to plant spring-blooming bulbs, provided the ground has not yet frozen solid. The predicted warm weekend temperatures should entice me to plant these beauties outside.  If not, they’ll be planted in pots and stored in the garage or the cold stairwell of the basement hatchway. With a bit of soil moisture, and a few weeks of the cold temperatures bulbs need to sprout, late winter should bring new growth.  A third, least desirable, option is storing the bulbs in paper bags in the refrigerator to pot up later. Though never trying the refrigerator storage thing myself, it’s purported to work.

Another bulb to-do: properly storing the canna bulbs. Cannas are a bit too cold-intolerant to survive outside through zone 6 winters. Rarely do I take on a plant/bulb that requires extra care to survive Connecticut weather, but a friend shared these cannas last spring. They grew beautifully all summer in large clay pots in full sun, needing little more than regular water, so now I’m hooked. Removing the bulbs from their pots was quite a chore but, after yanking, tugging, and forcing the bulbs from the soil, they went into a cardboard box in the garage to let the soil dry. And, there they sit.


According the the video below, all that’s needed now is to place them in a paper bag, move them to the warmer, but still cool, basement, and check them occasionally to make sure they are not too dry.

Canna care

Time will tell whether this canna experience becomes a GOOPs … they may just survive my neglect to grow in potted homes again next summer.

The last bulb … well, actually tuber … left on my to-do is horseradish.


The tubers, dug from the ground, shaken free of as much soil as possible, and left in a cardboard box to dry and cure now need remaining soil brushed off. Then, after washing and peeling, they will be food-processor ground.  It takes some doing to turn these unattractive, fresh dug horseradish roots into an edible condiment, but the sweetness of the finished product makes it worthwhile.

Tick-tock, tick-tock … all I need is time.

Do you find time lacking in your gardening life?  You can share your tale of time-woe, or confess another type of GOOPs, in a comment below or on your blog … just leave a link and a teaser comment below.

Don’t be shy. All gardeners have GOOPs. If you’ve not made mistakes, you are not gardening hard enough.

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10 comments for “Bulbs to Plant, Bulbs to Store; Avoiding a Gardening Oops.

  1. December 1, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I hope the experiment with the cannas works and yours survive their winter naps in good condition.

    I didn’t know bulbs could be planted in pots over winter, then transplanted later. That might be my salvation, I never get the fall plantings done, and even though I can probably still dig the soil now, it has a snow dusting over it … not gonna happen!

    My Oops is on my blog this morning, and it has to do with my inability to realize that conditions change.

    • December 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Laurrie, spring-blooming bulbs need a few weeks of cold, a growing medium to support them, moisture and light, once shoots begin to show. Simulate their natural conditions and you should get spring bloom. Put them in the ground after they bloom. They may take a season to catch up to the vigor of in-ground planted bulbs but they will survive.

  2. December 1, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I bet your Cannas will be fine…we used to dig them up every year in Nebraska too…they are so tough, we almost never even knocked the soil off the rhizomes after the first few winters…just plopped them in cardboard boxes and put them in our canning room 🙂 I’m utterly guilty of bulb hoarding…I have so many in my office…but NEED to get them in the ground soon…they’re already starting to sprout!

    • December 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      Scott, thanks for the info. It’s nice to know cannas will take some abuse.

  3. December 1, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    I got the plants out of my big pots, but didn’t empty the soil. Thought I had plenty of time, as the days were in the low 50s or high 40s. Nights were in the teens for days on end, however, and when I went to empty the pots they were frozen solid. One pot has started spalling and will never look attractive again. But I did get all my crocuses planted. And I put hyacinths in the refrigerator as soon as I get them in the fall, so I can force them during the winter. They need at least 10 weeks chilling and 12 is even better, so they need to get in the fridge asap.

    • December 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      Same thing here, Kathy. I checked a couple of pots I had yet to empty and they were frozen. Unless I get the crocus and iris planted outside tomorrow, they will find pot homes till spring.

  4. December 2, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Joene, it’s nice to know that Cannas can grow in pots. I may take them on this spring, since I’m trying to leave as much room for vegetables as I can. I’ve thought of growing horseradish, but heard it was pretty invasive–what are your thoughts?

    • December 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      Benita, I’ve grown horseradish for years, but do not suggest planting it in a bed with other plants. It’s best in a bed of its own. It will spread, which is what you want it to do in order to harvest good sized roots. I have it growing in two areas: one amongst raspberry brambles where it continues to regrow from rootlets and root pieces left after digging, and one bed reserved specifically for horseradish. I plant onions and garlic at the edges where horseradish has yet to spread. It doesn’t spread fast … like an invasive … but it does like to expand. Also, it is not a particularly attractive plant so choose a spot out of the spotlight. I won’t stop growing horseradish since fresh dug and ground brings the best flavor available.

  5. Debbie Nichols
    December 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    My gardening oops is not providing enough fertilizer to my summer veggies. Especially the eggplant! Any suggestions for this ? My soil is very good except that in some spots it is too acidic and other spots not . I compost and I still have strawberries that have survived 3 winters so far outside!!! Thanks for any suggestions! I also love flowers of any type and my daughter loves to garden too!

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