Holiday to-do list shouldn’t include planting bulbs

Erin Schanen


Last weekend I did something I’ve never done in December. I planted flowers.

I came across a package of Iris reticulata bulbs that I forgot to plant during the fall bulb-planting frenzy and, knowing that it’s always worth planting leftover bulbs if you can because they won’t keep for a year, I figured I would chisel into the ground and hope for the best.

I had no expectation that I would be able to just stick a trowel in the ground and plant because that is not how Wisconsin gardening in December works. At least that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

Setting aside the bigger picture and the long-range implications of a climate that allows planting in Wisconsin on the same day you are wrapping Christmas presents, I thought for a moment that maybe this wasn’t so bad. There’s less rush to get everything buttoned up in fall if you have all winter to do it.

But upon further review, I think planting in December is highly overrated. In my garden, and I would suspect most others, the to-do list is never done. It’s not until the weather puts a stop to it that I feel satisfied kicking up my feet in front of the fire free of guilt. I’m happy I was able to get those iris bulbs planted, and I look forward to the small plants they’ll produce in spring that will add a nice blue accent to the yellow and white daffodils. But I’d sacrifice a pack of bulbs for a good excuse not to garden in mid-December.

I was reminded of the other downside to unseasonably warm weather when I walked through the garden and noticed a few plants still showing off bright green color. Unfortunately, they were garlic mustard weed and creeping Charlie, two of the worst weed offenders. And they aren’t just surviving. They appear to be thriving as the creeping Charlie has made noticeable inroads in a section of the garden recently and I swear the garlic mustard weed is getting bigger.

Talk about guilt. It’s hard to walk past those weeds knowing that I could, and should, be pulling them but choosing not to because I just don’t feel like it.

If I was smart, I’d be taking advantage of this weather to get on top of those weeds. Imagine not having to spend weeks in spring hunched over and pulling until your hands cramp up. It’s what I’d tell another gardener, but I’m horrible at taking my own advice.

It’s also time to order seeds and dahlia tubers and I have very little enthusiasm about either. That’s because I haven’t had a chance to miss gardening yet. A forced break from gardening allows a bit of pent-up excitement to build, but if you’re still out there planting bulbs and worrying about weeds, it’s hard to lull yourself into only remembering the fun parts of working in the garden.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m careful about what I wish for. Give it a month and I’ll be pining for a mud-filled spring when even pulling weeds will be a joy. And judging by what I see now, I’ll have plenty of weeds to bring me joy.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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