True confession: I have a secret desire to create a garden so spectacular that it will stop traffic. I know that’s not realistic. For one thing, we don’t have much traffic. If ten cars go by in an hour, we say, “Gosh, there sure is a lot of traffic on the road today.” I’d settle for one person pulling over onto the side of the road to tell the gardener working outside (that would be me) that they really enjoy driving by every day because of the pretty flowers. And I think I’ve figured out how to make that happen.I’m working on a new garden bed along the road that is bisected by the front walk and visible from where I sit at the kitchen table. I sketched it out last winter, but it has since changed shape, and I didn’t really get started on creating it until August.
Yellow is the reason this bed exists. I love pure yellow that doesn’t have any red in it (that is, no “gold” or other orangey-yellows), and I want to have expanses of yellow visible from the breakfast table as the seasons progress, yellow daffodils being the first wave. So when Colorblends contacted me and asked if there were any bulb projects they could help me with, I told them about the Roadside Bed I was creating. They generously offered to send me 500 bulbs of their Roadside Yellow blend. I had originally thought I wasn’t going to be able to plant the daffodils until next fall, so this was an unexpected boost to the overall project.
I thought Colorblends just did tulip mixtures, but, boy, was I wrong. Besides the tulip mixtures, they also sell single varieties of tulips in bulk. They also offer daffodil mixtures and single varieties of those, and many other spring-blooming bulbs. They have a dreamy mix called Liberty that combines ‘Sailboat’ narcissus with grape hyacinths, for example. The trick is they cater primarily to garden professionals who need a lot of bulbs, and their minimum order is $60. However, I know a lot of gardeners who can easily plant 25 of this and 25 of that and exceed the minimum order without even trying.
I really like the Colorblends catalog, too, because they have a lot of truly useful information that other sellers don’t even mention, like how most tulips don’t come back year after year, easy ways to know when it’s time to plant bulbs, and myths about bulbs dispelled. A lot of that information is also on their website, which I have to say looks a little more interesting than the standard e-commerce site.
Did your heart do a little flip when you heard “five hundred bulbs”?Mine did, too. With my rocky soil, nothing is easy, but I had learned from planting hundreds of crocus bulbs that if I just keep plugging away at it, eventually they all get planted. Still, I had plenty of other plants to get in the ground, most of which had spent last winter in containers and which I was determined would not happen again. And you just never know when the last good day will be, the last day before the ground gets covered with snow or freezes solid. I felt like I was playing chicken with winter.
Then my friend Nicole volunteered to help me plant them, and my heart did another little flip, this time of relief and gratitude. She brought her kids along, and we got them planted in the space of an afternoon. Before we get to the actual planting, I want to show you the size of these daffodil bulbs.Almost without exception, when I have planted a huge swath of daffodils in the past, they have been from overgrown clumps of daffodils already growing in my garden. Because they were in need of lifting and dividing, not all of them were even blooming size–but they were free for the labor. I used what is called a planting bar or dibble bar to plant them. This is a rectangle of steel on a handle that is used create a wedge-shaped hole in the earth, into which you push a daffodil bulb. Nicole got this tool. The thing is, the bulbs from Colorblends were so big around that they would get stuck before they reached the bottom of the hole. Nicole had to drive the bar in twice, the second time at right angles to the first, to make more of a square-bottomed hole than a wedge-shaped. I think she even resorted to twisting the tool to make a circular hole, which had to be hard on her wrists.
What’s the fastest way to plant bulbs?
Most people will tell you it’s faster to dig up the entire area to a depth of six inches, place all the bulbs at once, and cover them all in one fell swoop. Most people are not trying to plant on the edge of a country road, in compacted clay soil full of rocks.I have found that in unamended “soil”–and I use that word advisedly–on our property, it is easier to plant bulbs individually, adjusting the planting holes around the rocks rather than trying to unearth all the obstacles.
However, if you have “easy” soil you can plant large quantities of bulbs in under thirty minutes, as this video demonstrates: I have made peace with my gardening lot in life–mostly. I occasionally get a twinge of jealousy when someone is able to plant five hundred crocus corms in just under an hour. With the right kind of soil, it can be done quickly. And with any kind of soil, it can be done eventually–if you want to stop traffic badly enough!
Many thanks to Colorblends Wholesale Flowerbulbs for donating 500 Roadside Yellow daffodils for this project.