Argh! I’m a Bad Parent!

Or a bad gardener, but often the two feel like the same thing. They both involve taking responsibility for the well-being of helpless living organisms.


So I’m drowning in guilt because I waited too long to uncover my container tulips. They were lined up along the west and south sides of the back porch, covered with chicken wire and dead leaves.

There were so many signs of early spring during the remarkably mild February we enjoyed. My thoughts occasionally wandered to the tulip bulbs planted in containers, but lethargy overcame responsibility and I took no action.


Until today. When I finally pulled off the leaves and chicken wire, I found several containers had etiolated Tulips, Tulips that had been searching for light but finding only darkness.


The earliest developmental stages are so critical for humans and Tulips alike.Now, thanks to my fecklessness, my Tulips’ first days have been without the essential stimulation they require. Will this stunt them for the entire season? If so, I won’t be able to forgive myself.

You think I’m kidding, and I am, sort of. But I was inspired to go out and pull the dead leaves and plant debris off of the Crocuses, Grape Hyacinths, and other early bulbs in other parts of the garden. I felt less guilty afterwards.

Are you feeling guilty about any of your plants as we head into the first days of spring?

75 Comments on “Argh! I’m a Bad Parent!

  1. We do need to clean up here at home., too ! ! I feel so guilty. I’m supposed to be in charge of our garden now. My Mom is not that strong anymore, and cannot do heavy work… she easily gets tired. I’ve taken over the maintenance….. but I’ve been busy.

  2. I’m so sorry. I don’t know if your tulips will have permanent damage or not since I’ve not grown them, but I’m here to say many of us have been “bad parents”. I moved a bunch of plants with me including a dormant grape vine and two water lilies. I moved in January, but forgot about the grape vine until April. It was left in the dark garage. Like your tulips, it was looking for light and was a ghostly white when I found it. Fast forward to today, and it’s one happy vine, but back then it was a sad thing to behold. The water lilies were sorely deprived from January through June when I moved a 2nd time. They were housed in wash buckets for 6 months with only a bit of water, but they also came through and now look fine.

  3. Jason, You shouldn’t feel guilty about your tulips, l think they’ll be fine. Blame the weather. It’s been far too warm for a February and has thrown all of us for a loop. Climate change?

  4. I blame everything that goes wrong in the garden on MOTHER Nature. She’s supposed to be the expert.

  5. My container tulips are in the garage and showing signs of life. What do I do now? Keep them inside or move them outside? I figure whichever I do, it will turn out to be the wrong thing. Stupid weather.

  6. My bad was not planting up more tulip pots. Mine are up and looking good…we’ll see if I get any blooms.

  7. Tulips are a crapshoot here in Northern California. I love them though, there is nothing more festive and however many I plant I always wish I had planted more .I hope yours revive.

  8. I bet they will be fine. I am feeling guilty about a raised planter full of garlic bulbs that was covered to protect it from too much snow and then wasn’t watered for…. a while!

  9. Don’t beat yourself up, Jason. It’s always a juggling act between being on top of all the gardening jobs and managing everything else in life! I’ve been late potting on many times and have felt dreadful for the poor strangulated roots… Fingers crossed your tulips will perk up and be just fine. If not, buy some pots ready grown 🙂

  10. Well, it would be a crying shame if you didn’t have fabulous tulips to make us drool this year, but I figure you could pull another ace out of your sleeve if you needed to:^)

    • They’re looking better now, so we’ll see. By the way, have you checked your spam folder lately? I think my comments are getting stuck in there.

  11. We all wait so eagerly for our gardens to show signs of life. We think of them so often as they rest in dormancy over the winter, we wonder if the deep freeze, the temperature fluctuations, the lack of snow cover, ( etc…) will do them in. I bet your tulips will be fine. Plants tend to be tenacious, they want to emerge from their dark slumber, find light, grow, and bloom. Go tulips!

  12. Hahahaaha. Don’t feel so bad. I bet they snap out of it with a bit of sunshine and warmth. I don’t have anything here that needs to be uncovered or cosseted. I feel a little guilty about not getting some seeds started that I intended to start this winter. Sigh~~ bad gardener bad…

  13. I don’t feel so much guilty as sad! We had a unusually warm winter, the most days over 80 in January on record, yep 80! But in that warm winter we had a two day super hard freeze that was not expected and even with covering all my porch plants my half my succulents are on a death march. I decided to give up….no more plants that want warm dry weather. I live in a swamp that freezes! I am having fun filling in the wholes of the cottage beds but I am also wrapping my mind around the idea of annuals. Tropicals on my porch that may or may not survive but at least thrive and grow like bananas when the rest of the time.
    I hope you tulips surprise you and recover!

  14. I hope that they will be OK, I am sure that they will. We all take our eye off the ball occasionally. It just means you are busy!

  15. Hahaha, I think they will be fine. I’m much worse than you, I found a sack of tulip bulbs rotting in the greenhouse!xxx

  16. I was feeling very guilty about losing so much in my yard thanks to two nights of freezing temps. Nature has a way of surviving, however, and much is showing new growth.

  17. Oh, Jason, I feel guilty about all my plants. I am so behind. I hope your tulips survive their deprived childhood.

  18. The lovely thing about plants is the way they spring back and forgive! I have a few plants that nearly fried in the heat of summer, and after a couple of days in shade they look cheerful again…as your tulips will be, no doubt.

  19. Well, our early spring means I am already behind before I get a chance to start. I am feeling guilty about all the weeds I need to ruthlessly root out and kill! They have suddenly bust forth and bloomed, seemingly in a single day!

  20. Don’t beat yourself up about it, I’m sure they will be ok. We have all done the same at some time and the plants all seem to survive.

  21. It’s a good thing tulips can’t talk. They would be guilt-tripping you for the rest of their lives. The ground is frozen hard here, so I am enjoying some guilt free time, plant-wise. I’m still suffering horrible guilt pangs from losing my bees.

  22. My situation is similar to Brenda’s. Too much snow in central Maine to feel guilty about anything. But my time will come 😉 And may the force be with your tulips!

  23. A report has been filed with PPS (Plant Protective Services) and they’ll be dropping by for a visit. For those tulips who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. In my own experience of poor plant parenthood which often involves putting a big pot or rock on top of spring bulbs, forgotten until a few brave souls struggle out from under, once the “mulch” is removed, the struggling plants color up nicely and continue on as if nothing had happened.

  24. I am in a permanent state of guilt about my plants. I spend all my time apologising to them for forgetting to plant them, forgetting to deadhead them, or accidentally uprooting them. Then again, I apologise to the worms for accidentally disturbing them.

    Bulbs are very forgiving… I’m sure your tulips will reward you with fine flowers and make you feel even more guilty.

    • Well, I draw the line at feeling guilty over worms. At least, I did until you mentioned the idea. It’s a good thing flowers tend to be forgiving.

  25. Despite some above average days, the ground in my garden is still frozen. So far the plants have had the good sense to stay dormant and I remain guilt free. At least as of today.

  26. Knowing how back and forth our weather is until late March or early April, I have not uncovered anything. Garden needs lots of cutting back and picking up of debris. While walking around I found chewing on uncaged shrubs and a nice Adiantum venustum dug out and thrown onto a path. Stuck it back in the ground but who knows how long it was there. Arg, all the downsides of spring variableness.

  27. My guilt usually doesn’t arrive until the season is well underway and I forget to water during a dry spell or let the weeds go a bit “wild” so to speak…still a couple of months off 🙂

  28. Been there, done that–though not with tulips, as they don’t work at all here in toasty Texas. Do forgive yourself; go out and plant and garden!

    • Then you’re way ahead of us. Since I wrote that post, we’ve had below-freezing temps for almost a week. By the way, I think my comments might be going into your spam folder.

  29. Hello Jason, I get this throughout the year with not pruning in time, letting smaller plants get overwhelmed, not watering, not potting on early enough, not cutting the grass frequently, letting weeds go to seed and so on. While not managing to get all the countless jobs around then garden done when they need to be, I’ve learned to let go a little and tolerate the early demise of a tiny fraction of plants that didn’t get tended to in time because the rest of the garden remains green, lush and floriferous (in the growing season at least). There’s always next season, anyway.

  30. So, now that you got a foot of snow (as I did…), how are the tulips doing? I’ve been afraid to uncover my hydrangeas…

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