Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bought Bargain Bulbs at Costco

After a trip to Costco last Thursday, I now have two bags of tulips chillin' in the meat bin of my fridge and bags of daffodils and alliums sitting on the counter, waiting to be planted. I wasn't planning on buying bulbs that day, but the display got to me-- stack upon stack, row upon row of colorfully labeled bags full of fresh, firm spring bulbs. At $8.29 a bag, they were irresistable.

We're talking 50 tulip bulbs and 50 daffodil bulbs for $8.29/bag. The 'Gladiator' Alliums were 3 to a bag. They's special, I reckon.

Now that I have a bulb auger, I'm no longer intimidated by the thought of planting 153 bulbs. I used to own one of those long-handled "bulb planters" that works well only if you're planting in a bed of tiny marshmallows. I have clay soil... the kind of clay that'll make a man out of you... or that'll make you scan the horizon for a set of biceps attached to a man.

Since I ditched the bulb planter and took a chance on a bulb auger I've never looked back. If I were putting together one of those You Don't Need A Man lady tool kits, it would definitely include a bulb auger.

Mail order bulb companies I've had good luck with include:

Dutch Gardens, Inc.

A few bulb companies highly ranked on Garden Watchdog include:

Old House Gardens Heirloom Flower Bulbs
Brent and Becky's Bulbs
John Scheepers, Inc.
Van Engelen, Inc.
Easy to Grow Bulbs

Californians, also check out Far West Bulb Farm, which sells native California bulbs.

Where the heck are my bulbs from? Let's see... looks like they're from the Netherlands' Langeveld Bulb Co., by way of Garden State Bulb Co. (the U.S. office and warehouse) in New Jersey.

Now, let's see how Langeveld ranks on Garden Watchdog.

SCORE: 75/100

Hmmm... interesting. Come spring, we'll know if my bargain bulbs pay off. I'll report back. I buy bulbs from independent nurseries as well. What I like about buying from a local nursery is that you often get to pick each bulb from a bin. You'll most likely pay more per bulb, but you'll have the opportunity to select the largest, least-bruised bulbs. The longer you wait, the funkier the selection usually. Plus, sometimes bulbs get put back in the wrong bin. As always, shop early for the best selection.

Where do you shop for spring bulbs locally, blog readers? And your favorite mail order bulb company(ies)?

Trey, are you reading this? I'm curious about which bulb companies you use and why you like them.

Being sporadically bargain-minded, I just did a price comparison; My Costco tulips and daffs cost 6 cents a bulb. I'd be paying more in the vicinity of 69 cents a bulb locally. Right now I feel like I got a really good deal. Time will tell.


  1. Anonymous9:22 AM

    We get our bulbs from Van Zyverden, Inc. Bulbs perplex us. Over the years the interest in bulbs has dwindled as people expect color when they want it. It’s like bare root fruit trees which have to be bought during the winter when most people don’t think of gardening. In the old days when people had a closer connection to the earth and its cycles you just knew it was time to plant bulbs in fall for spring bloom. You went to the nursery in winter and picked up bare root.

    Now we see people who want the bulbs already blooming in spring. We get folks all the time who see daffodils in spring and want to buy the bulbs then. You tell them to get them in winter for spring bloom. Do you think they will remember? I remind them in our newsletters but that only affects those who read it.

    This is where Costco and the other box stores have an advantage. You are usually there for something else non gardening related and see the bulbs. “Oh, while I am here I’ll pick up some of these great bulbs.” They have the advantage of customers in the store at a time of year when most nurseries don’t have a lot of customers in the store.

    We decided this year to carry only bulbs the deer won’t eat like daffodils. No tulips as we cant give them away. Gophers and deer! We might plant up some for spring blooming containers but they just don’t sell as well in the foothills. I can’t speak for other garden centers but bulbs are a category that has diminished in importance for my customers. This may change like many trends in gardening. We’ll have to wait and see.

  2. Thanks so much for your perspective, Trey. I hadn't thought about the added deer challenge you face in the foothills. So your niche is daffodils and other bulbs deer won't eat (native bulbs?). It was smart of you to drop the deer food, i.e. tulips. Are there some tulips the deer won't eat, like species tulips? Just curious.

    I'm surprised to hear that many people don't know when to plant bulbs! It's in the paper, on the radio, in books, etc. Even non-gardeners are likely to come across newspaper hardware store ads promoting bulb season... right?

    Who are these people and what DO they do? What are they doing when they should be listening to gardening radio shows on the weekends? I'm pretty sure Capital Nursery's radio show is on Saturdays at 1pm. And Farmer Fred is on on Sundays and he now has a podcast! Don Shor of Redwood Barn Nursery in Davis has a radio show on KDRT and it's available as a download and podcast.

    Trey, you need a podcast that people can download at their convenience! If any nurseryman's gonna do a great one, it's gonna be you. Better yet, make it a video podcast. Do you record your workshops? Snippets of those would be fun. It'd also be fun just to hear or see you check in once a week with a howdy-do and here's what's in stock and here's what you should be planting now. It could be on your blog like a regular entry, but... it'll also be on iTunes! That's like reaching THE WHOLE WORLD, including up-and-coming Gen X future gardeners.

    Like all your other fans, I wish your nursery was closer to where I live. I'd even swear off Costco bulbs in order to support what you're doing.

    Hmmm... for now and in the realm of reality, I wonder how you might reach people outside the garden center. I'm picturing a one-page Golden Gecko Garden bulletin for September taped on the end of a bookshelf at your local bookstore(s) reminding people cruising for books that it's time to plant bulbs. Heck, attach a tear-off coupon for a bulk bulb discount.

    Ok, so we're still primarily reaching gardeners, but at least we caught them outside the nursery and we might catch a few non-gardeners who happen by. How 'bout the local cafe bulletin board?

    Just shootin' out ideas here. You have an interesting challenge-- reaching gardeners outside the nursery during the "off season"-- there has to be a way.

    Don't pumpkins and autumn bloomers bring them in this time of year? Decent coffee in non-styrofoam cups? Hot chocolate and cider? Popcorn? Music? A comfy chair or two next to the book section? We're pretty easily lured into a nursery, aren't we, people, especially if we're getting more of an experience and not just a plant purchase?

  3. Im going bulb shopping tomorrow, and maybe for more EXCITED like xmas.They are easy to plant then wait expectantly for spring.Will be photographing earlier than this year.yippee!

  4. Anonymous8:37 PM


    Your enthusiasm is like a breath of fresh air. How wonderful it would be if everyone shared in your passion.


    The radio shows do a great job of delivering information to gardeners. We sponsor “The Garden Guru Show” on KAHI radio am 950 Saturday mornings at 9 am. It features Don and Chere Yamasaki of Auburn. It’s a great show for the foothill listeners as Don owned Yamasaki Nursery in Auburn for so many years and is a nursery legend.

    You say you are surprised that more people don’t know its time to plant bulbs. I think that you and I look at it through bulb colored glasses. How could people not take advantage of this season? Yet I think for most if it wasn’t for Costco presenting it to them while shopping for paper towels most wouldn’t know it time.

    Were not ready to give up on bulbs! I would love to have a huge selection with all sorts of unique and wonderful types. This year we thought we would focus on daffodils which do so well in the foothills. It would be great if we could build the selection to the best around. All kinds of daffodils! Plant them everywhere and forget about them. Deer resistance being a huge deal here we can use crocus, naked ladies, and other deer resistant types of bulbs, too.

    The podcast thing is interesting. I haven’t pursued it much as I don’t know a whole bunch about it. I do believe that media is becoming very niche oriented and localized garden shows could surpass major media shows in localized viewer ship someday.

    Oh, Angela, if everyone was as easy to lure into the garden center this time of year as you. The challenge is to keep reminding people about what’s happening in the natural world while their attention is pulled towards the holidays and shopping.

    Today the sand hill cranes flew overhead. Every year they fly from the north to The Central Valley to over winter. You don’t see them at first, you hear them. A sound way up, hundreds of feet in the air, you look to see flocks calling in a timeless rhythm. Fall has arrived! Only someone working outside, maybe in the garden can enjoy such things.

    Your suggestions for increasing awareness of the season are not going un-heard.

  5. I bought those bulbs Angela.I could not find them for ages.I have two hundred to plant now.The rain though will have softened the ground up I hope.The soil is very heavy and clay like.Planting bulbs gives you an extra season to enjoy too.Instead of the long summer, and Autumn, now its spring to look forward to.How the bulbs perform.Whether you remember where you planted them?I have lost my notebook already with this years plant list and positions, Doh!

  6. Go, Snappy... 200 bulbs! You sound so disciplined with your notebook and "plant positions." I just plant bulbs and try to remember in the most general (i.e. vague) sense where I put them. I predict many Doh! moments in my future.

    I do feel a little bit better that you can't find your notebook. ;-)

  7. Trey,

    Is there a website for the radio show on KAHI? I'll add a link to it.

    Though I haven't done a podcast... yet... I have played around a little with Audioblogger, a part of Blogger. Know how to make a phone call? Then you're already an Audioblogger expert. Like Blogger, Audioblogger is free.

    Audioblogger might be a good way to test the podcasting waters. I think you'll eventually want a video blog, or "Vlog", similar to Wiggly Wigglers that Amy has been talking about. Have you checked them out?

    Wiggly Wigglers

    They'd probably be great folks to talk to about podcasting.

    I'd also bug the KAHI folks about making the show you sponsor available as a podcast. We've become very spoiled by podcasts and TiVo.

    I love not being bound to a TV or radio schedule because it allows me to watch and listen when I want to. If I stayed up every night to watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report, I'd be a zombie when I get up at 6:30 to get my son to school by 7:30.

    If I stayed home on Sunday mornings to listen to Farmer Fred's TWO radio shows, I'd miss a lot of bike rides. His podcast allows me to listen while gardening later in the day. You should see me out there... with my iPod, my clippers... wearing my bulb-colored glasses. Angela's yard... where nature and technology are one...

    Hey, how 'bout a blog photo of your bulb setup? Let's show the folks what they're missing.

  8. Anonymous10:13 AM

    I am interested in the podcast and will start looking into that. I will watch that Wiggly Wigglers podcast after I open the nursery. I will also check on the podcast of KAHI’s Garden Guru Show.

    EAL at Gardening While Intoxicated has a new post about bulbs where she mentions, “Some speculation on why bulbs may not be as popular as they used to be:
    -no instant gratification here
    -an increasing emphasis on low maintenance (bah!)
    -more hardscaping and water gardens make less space for bulbs in quantity.

    I put a link to our discussion here on her comment section.

  9. Trey, I think more people would plant bulbs in California if they could get natives, which are almost impossible to find, at least in my otherwise excellent (Bay Area) nurseries.

    One good source, by the way, is Telos Rare Bulbs.

  10. I really think if people accepted some bulbs as annuals and had fun with them the same way they do annuals, bulbs would be more popular. I use mine in containers, and move the containers around to decorate various areas.

    However, as far as buying from nurseries goes, I'm no help there. I mail order all. For various reasons--variety, rare types, the excellence of some of the vendors. But I feel a bit guilty now, as I know our nurseries could use the business.

  11. I'll buy bulbs locally if they look okay. We plant bulbs later here, and sometimes they've obviously been kept in the 90+ temperatures for too long.

    Angela, this is only sort of bulb related, but do you have problems with squirrels in Northern California? The appetite of those tree rats for both bulb and flower seems to be a discouraging factor for most of the gardeners that I've known in both Texas and the Midwest. I would have bought a lot more tulip bulbs in Illinois but got tired of feeding the animals.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  12. Squirrels can be a problem. Some people around here cover their bulbs with chicken wire to deter squirrels and other pests.

    I planted over a hundred daffodils in a raised planter in my front yard and I swear the squirrels got 'em. I know daffs are supposed to be fairly animal-proof, but the bulbs simply disappeared, and no, they didn't rot.

    I remember feeling uncomfortable while I was planting them because a squirrel was watching me!

    My backyard is fairly squirrel-proof, thanks to my dogs and cats. Tulips, daffodils and lilies need no protection back there, but dahlias succumbed to snails and slugs.

    Yes, bulbs aren't always a sure thing, but with a few extra precautions (i.e. chilling, chicken wire, good drainage, etc.), they stand a good chance here in northern CA.