Human Flower Project

Ugly Duckling—Ranunculus Bulbs

How could something so creepy become the wonder of the April garden?


Ranunculus bulb: Don’t let looks deter you

Photo: Julie Ardery

It resembles a fat tick, dusty brown, with wriggling bare “legs,” but like The Ugly Duckling of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, by next spring it will become a swan, maybe a pink one. It’s a ranunculus bulb.

Only two years ago did we give ranunculus a first try. We’d never seen these plants in Kentucky gardens (not sure why) but here in Texas,  too brutal for so many more delicate-looking blooming plants, these luscious flowers do amazingly well. By mid-February, the professional growers around here have stupendous ranunculus to sell, in an array of lipstick and candy colors.

imageRanunculus in bloom

April 2005

Photo: Bill Bishop

The most famous growers are in California, fields striped pink and red, better than the Land of Oz. But even in our own disheveled limey garden, they have flourished.

There’s just one trick: remembering to plant the hideous little bulbs in November. We set ours out today. Last year, we kept putting it off until the ground was too cold and the holiday noose was already tight. What a pastel price we paid this spring!

Friend and gardener extraordinaire Ellen Zimmermann said her dear friend Dorothy Cavanaugh used to keep after her with an autumn refrain. “Don’t forget to plant your ranunculus…” Now Ellen keeps after us.

To anyone you may be fond of or even might be fond of by next April, pass that pressure on.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/04 at 03:44 PM


I find Ranunculus aconitifolius and Ranunculus adoneus the most beautiful. The first is as white as a dove that symbolizes peace and the bloom is so dense that you can hardly take away your eyes from it. The other one, a yellow flower, has the meaning, to me, of course, of sadness. But it so beautiful I cannot take into consideration among others.

Posted by Brenda on 11/06 at 07:32 AM

Yes Julie, this pink rose reminds me of my rose garden back home in Kohima, Nagaland-India.
We called it Colifornia rose.
Is it the same name you call it?
This picture makes me homesick!!!
Beautiful roses….

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 11/07 at 10:35 AM

I love the pale pink- sold!  Now if only I can remember to plant in November…

It was great to meet you today!  I had a fabulous time, and the Peese/David garden fried my brain with how much I learned from it.  smile

Posted by Lori on 04/05 at 11:48 PM
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