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Bulbs in the Green

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Frequently Asked Questions

Summary of questions: 

1 Why are our bulbs cost so little?
2 How do we maintain quality?
3 How was the Clare Bulb Co started?
4 Why do bulbs go blind?
5 Why don't bulbs come up?
6 Should I lift tulips?
7 What is "Planting in the Green"?


1. Why are the prices charged by the Clare Bulb Co generally lower than anybody else's? Do cheap bulbs mean poor quality?

We source our bulbs from reputable growers in both Holland and the UK. We order in sufficient quantities to obtain good prices, (presumably much the same as our larger competitors). We do not however have a large overhead structure  in our business, and also we are not greedy. Our business is almost a hobby, where customer satisfaction, not profit, is the main consideration. For these reasons we are able to price our bulbs very competitively.

2. What special action do you take to maintain your quality reputation?

Apart from selecting reliable suppliers, we are probably unique in that we hand count each bulb into the paper bags in which they are supplied to our customers. In so doing we are able to examine each bulb not only by sight, but also by touch. Soft bulbs are discarded, as are bulbs exhibiting any signs of damage. The usual industry method of counting is by machine, and a machine will count a bulb as a bulb, regardless of its condition. 
Our method is slow,  but it is exceedingly sure!

3. How did the Clare Bulb Co come into being?

The proprietors of the business originally ran a nursery and garden-centre near Dunmow in Essex. Included in their range of products was bulbs.
The nursery was sold in the 1960's, but the proprietors continued to buy bulbs on the wholesale market for their own extensive garden, and also for their friends. As word got around that the best place to buy bulbs was from them, there came a point where it became sensible to register the business, and to create was was originally called The Byfield Dutch & English Bulb Company.
On their move to the town of Clare in 1978 the name Clare replaced Byfield, and to shorten the name for the internet, the Dutch & English bit was removed as well. Thus the Clare Bulb Co.

4. Sometimes bulbs go blind. Why is that?

There are a number of reasons why this can occur. Here are some of them.

bullet The tops have been cut off the bulbs too early. For example, one must as a rule let the tops die back for six weeks after the flower fades. Planting bulbs in lawns can be conducive to this effect as an early spring usually means an early mow. Husbands have a penchant for mowing up the dying  leaves before the six weeks are up.
bullet Tying up bulb leaves to make them look tidy. This prevents the goodness from the leaves running back into the bulb, and helping to make next year's flowers. One has little choice but to let nature do its work in its own way, untidily. We ourselves comb the leaves out on the ground, which makes them look a little more orderly.
bullet Pulling out the leaves before they are ready to come. If they require tugging, it is probably too early.
bullet Planting the bulbs at too shallow a depth. Bulbs that need to be damp in the summer, such as daffodils, fritillaries, bluebells, snowdrops and narcissus, must be in deep enough to lie in damp soil. If they dry out they can give up flowering to protect their strength.
bullet The bulbs have grown too close together. This is quite common on daffodils and narcissus. The best solution is to dig them up and replant them further apart. Or buy some more from the Clare Bulb Co.
bullet Your garden is contaminated with a soil-borne disease, such as narcissus base-rot , lily beetle or tulip fire. There is no cure other than growing resistant varieties.
bullet Something has been nibbling the tops of the bulb leaves as they emerge. Prime candidates for this are pheasants, or on varieties such as Imperial Lilies, slugs and snails. 

5. Bulbs don't come up at all. What has happened?

Each bulb we sell already has the flower formed within it, and this should produce a flower in the following season, unless.....

bullet As you are planting the local squirrel is watching closely, ready to dig them all up when your back is turned. Squirrels are very fond of crocuses, for example. Other creatures which will dig up bulbs, particularly those planted too shallow, are mice and rabbits. Pheasants will also nibble off the growing tips of bulbs such as tulips. The answer is to plant good and deep, as we recommend. Click here for our depth chart on our ordering procedure page.
bullet The bulb has rotted over winter. This might occur where the ground is waterlogged, or the bulb has been frozen whilst wet, as can happen to bulbs planted in tubs. 
bullet The bulb is already diseased. If so it would not have been purchased from The Clare Bulb Co as we are scrupulous about the quality of what we sell.
bullet The bulb was under-size when purchased. Small bulbs are often cheaper, but will they grow?
bullet The bulb has not been stored correctly before sale, i.e. it has become wet, it has been too hot, or it has been bruised in handling. Needless to say, this does not apply to bulbs purchased from us. For example, our Fritillaria Meleagris are all stored in a refrigerator, to prevent mould forming, which is not something practised by the majority of retailers.
bullet You have accidentally put your spade through the bulb, or hoed the tops as they are about to come through, or anything like this which damaged the bulb in the ground. Even treading on the soil above a newly planted bulb if the soil is dry and knobbly can lead to bulb bruising.

6. Should I lift tulips after they have flowered?

Probably yes, unless you have a sandy well drained soil, or will gamble on a hot, dry summer. Tulip bulbs, coming as they did originally from the Middle East, expect to be baked during the summer. It is true that the specie varieties, and from our experience the Darwin varieties, are quite tolerant of wetter soils, and indeed we have some Red Apeldoorn, Golden Apeldoorn and White Dream which are at least 25 years old.

We generally lift the bulbs six weeks after the flowers have faded, and lay them on a bench in our greenhouse, leaving them for several weeks to "ripen". This means the outer tunics dry off, the stems can easily be removed, and the "splits", (the smaller bulbs formed by division), can be separated. It is not worth planting the small bulbs, but keep the 9cm circumference or over bulbs somewhere dry and away from rodents, and replant in November. Or buy some more from the Clare Bulb Company, which is a good idea anyway, as tulips need topping-up to ensure a good display.

7. What is "Planting in the Green"?

Planting in the green is carried out in the early spring, and refers to the planting of certain bulb varieties which have been lifted whilst in full growth, for immediate replanting elsewhere. Most common bulbs planted in the green are snowdrops and bluebells. Click here for details of our "in the green" options, and further information.                     

Quick page links Home page On-line shopping site Ordering by post or phone

Bulbs in the Green

Picture gallery Useful information FAQ's Labradors Contact us