Get your bulb on–Part I

Bulbapalooza in my kitchen

See these boxes and bags? They must be planted. All eleventy thousand of my bulbs have arrived except for a late order from Brent & Becky’s. I hope it’s a beautiful day because I’m going out to plant.

How do I do it?

Easy peasy. Take your sweet time and don’t hurry your sweet self.

If it takes a day or more, don’t worry, but make sure you tag or mark the spot where you’ve planted something so you don’t dig it up on day two. I know this from experience. Just remember to plant the little darlings in a natural way–unless you’re into the Holland bulb field look–all nice, straight rows. Place them pointy side up and three times as deep as the size of bulb.

In some spots this fall I’m using the scatter method popularized by Jacqueline van der Kloet, a Dutch garden designer. I saw a segment on Martha Stewart where van der Kloet planted a river of bulbs beneath Martha’s Linden trees, and Fran Sorin wrote about her interview with van der Kloet, along with a really nice review of her garden after visiting in 2010.

These are 'Parrot' tulips mixed in with some white ones I grew last year. Yes, I bought more 'Parrot' tulips. Yes, I did.

The method is this: Get a wheelbarrow or garden cart, take your bulbs, mix them up and toss onto the prepared bed. Then, tuck each sweetie in after making sure they have plenty of space. For a small space van der Kloet uses only three varieties of bulbs, and with a large border up to seven varieties according to Sorin. I’m planting in this method for the herbaceous border next to the garage. It is more protected than the lower garden and doesn’t have many bulbs. In this space, I’m planting: Allium nectaroscordum (24 bulbs, blooms late spring), Allium schubertii (12 bulbs, late spring), Narcissus ‘Thalia’ (32 bulbs, blooms mid-spring), Narcissus ‘Wave’ (4 bulbs, mid-spring), Scilla campulata ‘Excelsior’ (40 bulbs, late spring), Muscari latifolium (70 bulbs, mid-spring), a pastel mix of basic tulips in yellows and soft pinks (80 bulbs, mid-spring) –I don’t spend much on these because they are annual here–and a fragrant collection of bulbs with a pink parrot-type tulips, small narcissus and stodgy, pink hyacinths (54 bulbs, late spring.)

Three hundred, fourteen bulbs if I added correctly. That’s just the back garden.

Scilla siberica, tiny but full of the blue of a spring sky.

Bulb planting isn’t difficult, but it can cause wear and tear on the elbows. Frances of Fairegarden reminded me to use my trowel in a stabbing fashion to plant to ease hand and elbow stress. I am taking her advice. Gail from Clay and Limestone influenced me by talking so much about her Tommies. Last year, I tried a few. I liked them so much this year I ordered more. Other friends, Mary Ann of Gardens of the Wild Wild West, and Cindy From My Corner of Katy also influenced my purchases. This group of friends is a bunch of bulb enablers. What will my children think one day if they put a spade to earth in my garden and only hit bulb after bulb?

This is when I begin to panic. I have itty bitty crocus, itty bitty tulips and more small bulbs than I can count. What was I thinking?


  1. is there anything more exciting than bulbs for the garden? those first late winter crocuses and daffodils are fantastic. i just got my order from brent and becky’s — need to take it slow like you suggest and do a few at a time. i have a big problem with squirrels and voles and usually lose quite a few. i’m thinking of trying chicken wire boxes for the rarest ones. do you have pests to deal with, too?

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Daricia, nope, there is not. Yes, chicken wire boxes or simply a bowl of it in the hole help keep moles and voles at bay. They mostly want the tulips.

  2. Last year I won 1,000 daffodil bulbs planted, and watched as he did it. It was pretty similar to what Carol said, except he used a pine tree planter (which is like a real skinny shovel). Of course, that was in the lawn but the beds are different. Last year I rescued lots of daffodils and thought I really didn’t want many bulbs for this year. But I ended up with about 100 anyway. I think they’ll be some of the most drought-tolerant of all my plants. The Spanish bluebells I got from OHG were HUGE!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Amazing Jean. I can’t imagine trying to plant 1,000 daffs. You were so lucky to get them. I love the Spanish bluebells. OHG, Brent & Becky’s and Van Engelen are all very generous with bulbs and size.

  3. Rose says:

    Ha, I planted about 300+ bulbs two or three years ago and said never again! This year I limited myself to just 200:) But it is so worth it in the spring! I love your purple and white combo; I have some similar bulbs I was thinking of planting together, too. In fact I’m headed out the door soon to finish planting them before the weather gets too cold.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Ha Rose! Two hundred. You make me smile. It will be worth it. Go for more. Go long, but go slow. Hugs.

  4. Bulbs have always eluded me, except for the few here and there that I might throw in haphazardly. I love your photos, and the fact that you remind readers to not ‘hurry your sweet self’! Truer words were never spoken! Maybe this year I’ll actually set out to give some thought as to where I might plant them, hearing your words echo in my head the entire time so I don’t get overwhelmed!!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Well, part of it is where you live Rebecca. California isn’t easy for bulb planting. It doesn’t get cold enough. Some, though don’t mind a warm bed in which to sleep.

  5. Diana says:

    Wow. 300 bulbs is a huge undertaking. And you’ve inspired me to get off my —- and go plant some of mine today! My big new tiered bed with all it’s soft soil will be so much easier to plant than the rest of my beds with their miserably hard clay! Can’t wait for you to post about those blooms in the spring.

  6. Donalyn says:

    I am so late finishing this up! We are fortunate to be on the good side of the Nor’easter blowing through today, but it is still not going to be any fun. And I wish tulips would be an annual here – what they are is a winter snack for mice, voles chipmunks etc. Last year they got right through my little wire baskets – I give up! Planting bulbs gets me through the winter – I know I will get to see something really nice when spring finally gets here 🙂

  7. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You were thinking that you need lots of color next spring. You will be so happy you did this. Have fun.

  8. Mary says:

    When I was a teenager there was a woman in Caddo who planted each one of her bulbs in a hollowed out can to protect them from critters. She must have eaten a LOT of canned food or had all the neighbors saving because her front yard was a glorious expanse of daffodils and tulips. I’m not that ambitious, and I haven’t even purchased any bulbs this year. I guess the drought has me discouraged. Maybe I’ll pick up a few this weekend.

  9. Dee, I was inspired by the same people, and have about the same number of bulbs coming – but not till Wednesday, grrrrr. I’ll be using or trying van der Kloet’s method as well. Happy planting!

  10. Joe says:

    Bulbs are so fun. I especially like Daffodils and tulips. Unfortunately, the squirrels here eat all tulips I plant here. There’s a beautiful Dutch garden in San Francisco complete with windmills that has a beautiful display of tulips each year. The Dutch really know how to garden, that’s all I can say. 🙂 Good luck on your bulbs!

  11. Shanley in northern Okla says:

    Don’t panic. Just plant! How do you protect from squirrels and other raiding varmits? I use chickewire but it’s a pain.

  12. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Your spring garden will be glorious! I can vouch for the Licata method: dig one giant hole, then place/scatter the bulbs as you like, cover them up and you’re done. It worked well for the tulips I planted the last few years in memory of my friend Amy.

    I feel like a slacker: I haven’t ordered any bulbs at all yet!

  13. Leslie says:

    I can’t wait to see the photos next spring!

  14. Layanee says:

    You must plant at record speeds! Love all those bulbs. I do have more to plant.

  15. Frances says:

    There can never be too many bulbs! Yours make my mouth water, the garden will be awash in even more blooms next spring. I can think of no other gardening pursuit that has a sweeter payoff than fall bulb planting. Delayed gratification rules! Thanks for the linkage, my friend.

  16. Gail says:

    We so love helping you with your bulb purchases and I thank you for the linklove! After reading this charming post, post I may have to order more Tommies and tulips. I see Martha’s gardeners planted 20,000 Tommies! Love the wheeelbarrel method and will be using that when I plant on the hillside….That may be a perfect place to add more tulips, a few crocus, alliums. Oh my! It’s a rainy day, time to jump into the bulb ordering rabbit hole. xogail

  17. Carol says:

    I don’t know what you were thinking, but I was thinking the same thing. I bought bulbs for “early spring” hoping they will be in bloom for Easter on April 8th, including 800 crocuses to plant in the lawn. I best get to planting. Fortunately, the small bulbs are easy to plant with a dandelion digger… stab the ground, pull forward on the digger, drop a crocus bulb in and pull out the digger, tamp down, move on.

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