HELEN LANG: Watching all of the bulbs closely for signs of life

It is just after eight o’clock in the morning on what may be a beautiful day

It is just after eight o’clock in the morning on what may be a beautiful day. My hesitation comes because there are some very dark clouds almost overhead.

As a contrast there are also those wonderful boulevard trees decked out in their delightful fall colours. In the old days I used to try to paint. I was never any threat to Van Gogh or Picasso, but it gave me a lot of pleasure just doing it, even when the finished effort was something less than beautiful. I wish I dared try again now but the “art police” would probably have me arrested for causing a public nuisance. I’m sure you’ve seen a hopeful artist struggling to put paint on canvas, surrounded by crowds of on-lookers full of suggestions; “That tree needs more red on its trunk,” “You need a bigger brush to paint those clouds,” or even worse, the one who says (in a superior tone) ”and what is THAT supposed to be?”

Enough chit-chat! Let’s go back to the bulbs, shall we?

As a general observaton, it seems the easiest way to judge how deeply to plant each variety is to put them in at three times their height, measured from the base to the top.

If you are buying bulbs, there is generally a plastic tag available telling you how deeply they should be planted.

Do put half a teaspoon of pellet fertilizer under the large bulbs but do, please, cover it with an inch of soil before adding the bulb. If you have bulbs from last year waiting to be planted, carefully pry off any infant bulbs nestled alongside their mother. Plant these in a separate bed, keep them watered and fertilized during the summer and they should be ready to plant, and, hopefully, bloom, next year.

Today I must bring in the two amaryllis which have spent this wonderful summer outdoors. I’ll put them in the dark, lying on their sides to allow them to dry out and the foliage to die back and leave them there until mid-November when they may be brought into the kitchen, dead foliage removed, then watered and watched closely for signs of new life. When this happens you’ll know they are alive and well and may be treated like royalty, especially when a flower bud appears.

This sometimes happens even before any leaves show up.

I’m expecting relatives from Ontario to visit for at least two dinners (and maybe two lunches) and am in my usual panic at what to serve.

I think I’ll take them to McDonalds. No, I know I can’t get away with that! How about hot dogs (served on my best china, of course)?

Oh my sainted aunt!

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.