Vintage Pacific NW: We’re revisiting some of our favorite stories from some of our favorite former magazine contributors. Check back each week for timeless classics focusing on food, fitness, gardening and more.

Originally published Aug. 23, 2012
By Ciscoe Morris, former In the Garden writer

BULBS SUCH AS lilies, dahlias and many rare beauties make the summer garden spectacular. They go dormant every winter, but before they emerge in late spring, thousands of us suffer from “Hidden Bulb Anxiety.” 

This is the gardener’s fear of digging in the early spring soil because he or she can’t remember where the gazillions of dormant bulbs are planted. There’s nothing worse than pulling your digging spade out of the ground to discover half your prized Podophyllum ‘Red Panda’ bulb skewered on the end of the shovel. 

Drawing a map to keep track of them is a major undertaking, especially in a complicated garden. Marking them with plant tags can look unsightly; plus, the tags disappear. I couldn’t figure out why my fancy metal tags were vanishing until I spotted a crow flying away with one to add some classy wall art to his nest! 

Save yourself anxiety next spring by taking a series of pictures of your garden now, while it is in full splendor. 


Next spring, refer to your pictures to pinpoint the location of your dormant beauties. Do it every year at this time, and it won’t only keep you from destroying your hidden gems, but you’ll also end up with an evolutionary history of your garden as well. 

Don’t forget to water your trees 

Lawns generally can be allowed to go dormant during the dry summer months without suffering lasting harm, but most trees can’t. Little rain falls in the summer months here, and even big, well-established trees need water if they’re growing in dry conditions. 

If your tree is already starting to turn fall color or, worse yet, starting to show signs of dieback, it’s telling you that it needs water right away. 

Wrap a soaker hose in concentric circles starting around the trunk, working out to the drip line. Run the water for three or four hours. The following day, dig a hole under the tree to see how deeply the water has soaked in. It should soak down at least 8 inches, so if it’s only moist 4 inches deep, double the amount of time you run the hose.

Do this once every couple of weeks until the rains begin in September. By the way, a 25-foot soaker hose is usually adequate for this project. Anyone who can lay out a 50-foot soaker hose without getting kinks in it should be making a living wrestling snakes.