What you see isn’t always what you get … at least, not when it comes to bulb catalogs. Most, of course, are strictly honest and give impeccable service and top quality, true-to-type bulbs, but there are a few shady dealers you have to watch out for. And some of them are quite aggressive in their sales pitches.
I don’t dare mention the names of the disappointing sources of bulbs for fear of being taken to court by their team of lawyers, but I can tell you, from long experience, how to tell an honest bulb supplier from a crook. And it’s as simple as looking at the photos in their catalog, be it printed or on line.
Honest, knowledgeable merchants use honest photos. What you see in their catalog is what you’ll actually get when you plant the bulbs. (I like that!) But merchants given to exaggeration and exploitation (or ones who have absolutely no knowledge about what they’re selling, which is no better) can’t seem to help but cheat. They always have their graphic designers “improve” the photos to give the bulb a more saleable color. That really makes the choice easy for me: when I see an obviously retouched photo, I know I’m dealing with a fraudster and look elsewhere.
How Can You Tell?
You’re not knowledgeable enough about bulbs to tell which photos are realistic and which have been falsified? Here are 3 easy examples that even a novice bulb gardener can use to tell a quality bulb catalog from a second-rate one.
- There are no blue tulips
There simply are no blue tulips. They just don’t exist. If the tulip in a catalog looks blue, it’s because it has been retouched. See the photos above of the popular ‘Bleu Aimable’. The center of the flower is indeed blue, which is how it got its name, but the tepals are violet to purple, not blue at all.
- Pink Daffodils are Still Just Wishful Thinking
Much progress has been made in bringing pink shades to the flowers of narcissus (also called daffodils or jonquils), but, to be brutally honest, a true, pure pink is still wishful thinking. All those “pink narcissus” you may see in catalogs may be very pretty and well worth growing, but they’re actually closer to apricot or peach. So if you see a truly pink narcissus in a catalog, you know you’re dealing with a disreputable dealer.
- ‘Pink Sunrise’ Muscari is Actually Closer to White
The muscari ‘Pink Sunrise’ is the first pink muscari … but just barely. You’d have a hard time finding a pink more washed out than that. It’s sort of pink-ish for first day or two, then white as a ghost from then on. Such a disappointment! So, despite so many catalogs promoting it as the first pink muscari and my having quite a nice collection of muserais, I’m holding off on buying any pink ones for the moment, hoping some hybridizer somewhere will come up with the real thing. That doesn’t stop some merchants from “pinkifying” the plant’s photo, though. Shame on them!
So there you go: now you know how to distinguish between an honest bulb catalog and one that is trying to rip you off. Just check out the colors of the blue tulips, pink narcissus and pink muscaris!