I’ve always loved tulips. I have zero desire to relive my days as a college student, except for those two weeks of April when the tulips on the quad were in bloom. My favorite part of Chicago in April was the glorious bulbs abloom on the Mag Mile.
In my post-college days, I plan my running routes and my drives home to align with the neighborhood’s best floral displays, my heart filling with gratitude for the neighbors who plant tulips in generous clumps (and hollering why???? to the neighbors who line their walkways with one lonely tulip every three feet).
For almost fifteen years, I’ve had a yard to call mine, and—aside from some pretty normal city codes—complete control over what to plant in it. Every spring when the bulbs start popping up, I think I wish I’d planted tulips. There’s no reason I can’t.
But there’s one small problem: to enjoy tulips in the spring, you must plant them in the fall. And this is something I can never, ever remember at planting time.
I was determined that this year would be different, again. Last year I wanted a fresh start for our first spring in the new house: a fresh start with lots of tulips. My goal wasn’t particularly ambitious: I didn’t want a breathtaking display worthy of a college campus or the Mag Mile or Southern Living. I just wanted a few generous clumps that actually bloomed.
I almost forgot: I waited so long to buy my bulbs that they were already on clearance at Lowe’s. A friend helped me plant them that first year, a few weeks after the recommended time for my area, just a few hours before a cold front blew into town, sending ground temperatures plunging and making further digging impossible. She invited herself over to do it (thank goodness); I don’t think it would have happened without her.
This year I was eager for a repeat performance. I thought last year’s tulips would come back, but I didn’t want to risk a spring without blooms. I bought my bulbs early and planted them on time, all by myself.
We’re enjoying a beautiful early spring around here, and this week my tulips—old and new—burst into glorious bloom, again.
I’m not much of a planner by nature. But I’ve gotten better over the past few years: I’ve learned a few strategies and survival mechanisms that work for me; I’ve adapted some habits that help compensate for my tendency to fly by the seat of my pants.
I’m obscenely proud of myself. They’re just tulips, but they represent a personal victory. They make me smile every time I see them, not just because they’re beautiful (which they are), but because after fifteen years of wishing I’d actually planted some when the time was right, I’m finally doing it.
Can you relate? I welcome your thoughts on planning ahead, personal victories, and besting your natural inclinations in comments.