For the most part, I have a healthy respect for garden tools. Every pruner I have cuts what it’s supposed to cut, every spade moves earth the way it needs to, and I’m still using claws, rakes, and hoes that I’ve had for years. 

There is one family of tools that makes no sense to me, however. I became acquainted with bulb planters very early in my gardening life, because tulips and lilies were the first plants I wanted to grow. My initial bulb planter was a short, soft-handled metal one with jagged edges. This did a very good job of withdrawing a rock-solid plug of earth from my planting bed. After spending an hour or so sinking the thing in and then poking and pounding at it to make it give up its contents, I got maybe 10 bulbs planted.

Reasoning that the small planter was too flimsy, I went for a much heavier long-handled version of it. Same results, except now I could stand as I pounded the thing against the nearest hard surface to get the dirt out of it. (I do think it would make a good weapon: easy to lift and swing, but with a good, solid clang when it connects. I’m assuming.)

I soon discovered that special tools were not needed; shovels were better. For small bulbs, a short spade can be rocked back and forth until it makes enough space for 3-5 species tulips, and the dirt falls right in afterwards. For a big group of large hybrids (I only plant them in big groups), a big shovel does the job. And now I have a new tool: when the ground is filled with roots and small stones, the CobraHead seems to be able to claw its way through anything, loosening it up so I can spade or shovel the rest.

Sure, there are dibbles, which are nice (great name), and augers attached to drills, which bring power into the mix, but even these special bulb tools are designed to plant one bulb at a time. And that is something I never do any more. They don’t look good isolated, and if you’re going to make small holes close together, why not make one or several big holes instead? Well? 

I’m guessing no one will be sending me any bulb planters now, and that’s fine. But I would be interested in what the bulb-planters among you think.