2,005 bulbs to plant now will be a spectacle come spring

Erin Schanen


Gardeners have a love-hate relationship with bulbs, and for good reason.

Few plants can deliver so much impact with so little work. Stick a daffodil or tulip bulb in the ground and walk away and you’ll be treated to a little miracle in spring, when winter-weary gardeners need it most.

But what’s one daffodil? It’s nothing really. But multiply that by 10, or better yet, 100, and now you’re onto something. And herein lies the problem. We all want those miracle flowers when the landscape is otherwise devoid of most plants, but we want them in big clumps, or sweeping swaths. Gardeners are greedy.

And that’s how you end up with 2,005 bulbs shipped in four enormous boxes in your garage. If that sounds oddly specific, you have probably figured out that I’m not talking in generalizations here. This is an accurate depiction of the current state of my garage.

I shouldn’t have done the math. I actually thought I was taking it easy on the bulbs this year. So much for that.

My favorite two bulb-planting methods can make easy work of most bulb-planting jobs. For naturalizing bulbs that I scatter throughout the garden or woods, I rely on a two-person operation in which one person uses a bulb auger on a battery-operated drill (have a spare battery ready) to make the holes and the second person follows behind dropping a bulb into the hole and putting the soil back in.

For areas where I want a clump of bulbs, I just dig a hole and line them up.

I’ll be employing the second method quite a bit this year because, for what may be the first time, I actually have a plan for all those bulbs. In the past I’ve ordered whatever struck my fancy, but this year I chose specific varieties to plant together. I’m focusing most of my attention on an expansive new garden where, rather than having random daffodils scattered around, I’ll be planting large clumps of a mixture of bulbs throughout the space. This will create a cohesive look, but also make it easier to trim back bulb foliage after it dies back.

Each clump will include two types of daffodils — ‘Silver Smiles’ and ‘Jetfire’ and a handful of muscari, also known as grape hyacinth. All of them bloom in early to mid-spring so there should be one big show rather than a trickle of flowers throughout spring.

The hate part of the relationship with bulbs is self-inflicted. With all those great attributes and the promise of beautiful spring flowers, it’s not uncommon for a gardener to get a bit carried away. What’s one more “bulk mix” of daffodils? Tulips? Sure, we can squeeze 700 or so of those in the fenced-in vegetable garden where they won’t be deer food.

And it all makes sense until you realize that you need to get them all in the ground before it’s frozen. But I’ve got 2,005 reasons to suck it up, throw on a parka and get planting, because while I might hate that chore now, there will be nothing but love come spring.


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