The Lily Bulb Rescue

My story started at the end of February 2010, a few weeks after our local Walmart received a shipment of spring bulbs. The bulbs had been packed in wood shavings and sealed in plastic bags with small air holes so they wouldn’t mould. The bags came in colourful display boxes so customers could admire the potential flowers and hopefully purchase the bulbs.

But it was still winter. Those bulbs should have been stored in a dark, cool place for another two months, but when they arrived at Walmart they were put on display in a warm, light environment. After a week or so they decided it must be spring and started sending out shoots.

Around two weeks later I happened to be in Walmart and wandered over to the display. A mental alarm bell started ringing, warning me to keep away from anything living – like plants. I already had a couple of African Violet “rescues” at home blooming their hearts out. But, drawn by the appealing colours, I yielded to temptation and checked out the lily bulbs.

I picked up several packages and examined them. This is a no-no for me, because I know what shape Walmart seasonal plants are often in: sadly neglected and suffering. And these definitely were.

By this time the shoots were from three to six inches long and reaching for light in whatever direction it could be found, hampered by those tiny bags. Some stems had grown a few inches, hit the end of the bag and turned around in a U. Some snaked like an S. They’d all grown as far as they possibly could and their topmost leaves, crammed up against plastic, would soon start to rot. It amazed me that the store hadn’t discounted them yet.

Seeing things like this always irks me. In most of these huge marts plants have a certain time to sell – a time when some effort is put forth to keep them alive – but after that initial period if it lives it lives; if it dies it dies. (Which is why I came to carry home some bedraggled looking African violets another day.) I know it’s business as usual, but these are living things. They need some care. And if things start to go south, put the plants on sale and move them out as soon as possible. Rotting leaves don’t make for an attractive display.

Okay. I have a soft heart and/or a weak mind. I searched through the plastic bags and found the bulbs with the longest, kinkiest, shoots, the ones most in danger of being hopelessly deformed. I did limit myself to three bags, though – three dozen bulbs – and carried them to the cashier, wondering all the while if I should get into therapy. When I got them home I immediately opened the packages to give the poor leaves a reprieve from the threat of mould.

Now what? It would be at least another month until I would even see the garden (now under four feet of snow.) I couldn’t leave the bulbs sit until then. Fortunately I had a bag of peat moss on hand and half a bag of potting soil, so I got a basin and mixed up a batch of soil, hunted up some old plastic pots and planted the things. When I ran out of pots, I found a stack of disposable plastic tumblers in the cupboard, and employed them in my rescue operation.

It wasn’t very easy to plant the bulbs, as kinky as their shoots were. I had to weigh down some of the pots so the heavy shoots hanging upside down over the edge wouldn’t pull the whole pot over. But I planted all thirty-six and set them in our wide, cool windowsill where they’d get the morning sun.

A couple of weeks went by and the shoots slowly reoriented themselves toward the light. Some remained a bit kinky at the base, but most of them straightened up nicely. About eight weeks later I planted them in the garden, wondering how they’d take the chilly spring nights. They held up well; every last one survived and grew into a nice, upright plant.

In July they bloomed – and they were gorgeous! I took a bouquet to the seniors’ home and the folks marvelled at their beauty, their colour and scent. One lady who was visiting there the next day called me to ask what variety they were. She thought I must have purchased some really special collection.

I told her, “Yes, in fact I did.” And she laughed when I told her about their “upbringing.”

Word Press daily prompt word: Reprieve

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