Stop Traffic With These Daffodils

– Posted in: Garden chores, How-to, Narcissus, Roadside Beds
20 comments

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.

Colorbrends RoadsideYellow daffodil blend

“Roadside Yellow” daffodils. Photo courtesy Colorblends.

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.

Colorblends 2014 catalogI 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”?

two crates daffodils from Colorblends

Two hundred fifty daffodil bulbs in each crate.

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.

home grown bulb vs Colorblends bulb

On the left is a narcissus bulb that I had dug from a previously planted clump of daffodils in my own garden. On the right is a typical bulb from Colorblends.

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.
Planting many daffodils with a helper.

Nicole created the holes with the planting bar, and her helper put a bulb in each one.

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.

I was using the ProPlugger (read my Pro-Plugger review), which makes a circular, flat-bottomed hole.

Planting Colorblends bulbs with the ProPlugger

Nicole’s daughter and I worked together on the other side of the walk using the ProPlugger.

Even though the ProPlugger cuts a 2-1/4 inch hole, I needed to make many of them wider to accommodate the diameter of the super-sized daffodil bulbs.

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.

Rocks uncovered while planting a new garden bed.

I ran into a lot of rocks planting other parts of the roadside bed.

Big rock unearthed in garden bed creation.

Occasionally I unearthed a real whopper that I needed help removing from the garden-to-be.

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.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Les November 15, 2014, 2:38 pm

I buy from Colorblends at work. Though I thought about creating my own blends using less expensive bulbs from another company, the choices and my experiences with Colorblends keep me coming back.

Kylee Baumle November 3, 2014, 5:50 pm

I can’t wait to see that, Kathy! I’d like to do a similar thing here, but it will have to wait. And I had to grin when you talked about the traffic you get. We’re lucky if we get 10 cars going by in a DAY!

VWgarden November 3, 2014, 3:21 pm

Gorgeous! I have also appreciated ordering from companies that cater to professionals, like Van Englen and Zonneveld. Planting that many daffs in awful soil sounds miserable, though. I hope you could soak in a hot bath or something afterward – the only reason I ever take a bath now is after a long, hard planting project.

Kathy Purdy November 3, 2014, 3:56 pm

I don’t think Zonneveld sells to the U.S. At least, I’ve never heard of it before.

Kathy Purdy November 3, 2014, 4:00 pm

I never heard of Zonneveld. Actually I put an ice pack on my back instead of a hot soak. No sore muscles the next day.

Annie November 3, 2014, 2:14 pm

This is amazing! Great job on extending your garden to the public. A friend of mine here in Saskatchewan has started lining his neighborhood with tulip bulbs. I’m excited to see them in the spring. Thanks for sharing!

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern November 3, 2014, 9:32 am

Oh, I cannot wait to see your traffic stopper in Spring!!! I plant bulbs every Fall – eventually, over several years, I will have planted 500(!!) bulbs. Is that slow enough for you? I miss the rocks I used to have in the soil when I gardened in Maine – I used all the rocks in the garden for paths, drainage, etc. Now, I just have the clay – but it’s becoming better soil over time. Excuse me while I browse color blends site …

Kathy Purdy November 3, 2014, 11:33 am

I do use the bigger rocks for paths. I place flat rocks around newly planted perennials and shrubs in fall to help prevent heaving and chicken scratching. (In the very early spring we let the chickens out of their yard to free range and they can unearth plants that aren’t firmly rooted.)

michaele anderson November 3, 2014, 8:30 am

Boy, is all that hard work going to pay off wonderfully come spring! You are going to have an awesome abundance of yellow blooms to see from your kitchen sitting place (truly very important because that helps start the day with energy and enthusiasm) and I’ll bet you do get traffic stopping compliments. I have been known to write notes and put them in mailboxes if I drive by a gardening display that deserves an “atta’ boy/girl”. Are you going to add yellow daylilies or asiatic lilies in years to come to give some summer yellow to this area?

Kathy Purdy November 3, 2014, 9:26 am

Yellow daylilies are already planted, Michaele. They were a good percentage of the container plants that needed to get in the ground. Also have planted sundrops (Oenothera sp.) along the road. I plan to do a post about the creation of this bed as soon as the outdoor chores are done.

commonweeder November 3, 2014, 8:00 am

I enjoy your planning and planting posts so much. I am not planting any bulbs this fall because I (strongly) suspect I will be in a new house with new (probably) blank garden space next year. It will be an intown house and garden where I can think about ways to stop traffic. Here at the End of the Road there is no traffic at all.

Kathy Purdy November 3, 2014, 9:23 am

Oh, wow, Pat, sounds like there are big changes in store for you.

Layanee DeMerchant November 3, 2014, 6:40 am

Oh the anticipation! I have more bulbs to plant and perhaps I need to order a couple hundred for the side of the road. Bright yellow is a 50 mile/hour plant although the speed limit on my gravel road is half that. Still, the screeching of brakes when bloom time occurs would be an interesting sound. I hope it happens for you!

Kathy Purdy November 3, 2014, 9:22 am

Oh, I don’t need to hear brakes squealing. If they slow down to a crawl, that will be good enough!

Joanne Toft November 2, 2014, 7:49 pm

Oh just what I wanted -a car stopper garden. Two broken bones in my wrist has left me with hired friends closing down my garden and planting 30 tulip bulbs this year. Other bulbs will have to wait. Now I am hoping for the hard freeze so the critters leave my bulbs alone. Happy planting!

Kathy Purdy November 3, 2014, 9:20 am

Sorry to hear about your poor hand, Joanne!

Carol McKenzie November 2, 2014, 6:53 pm

I planed 50 daffodil bulbs this year, and thought I was doing great. I live on a ridge, a combination of shale beneath 6″ of something like dirt, or several feet of clay. I’m slowly amending the clay as I go, so getting the 50 in was a cause for celebration.

I dream occasionally that people come to the house to ask about the gardens…which at this point exist only in my dreams. I’ve also dreamed that my son is selling the house and is frustrated because no one will promise to take care of the gardens the way his mother did. That dream involves a very large 3-binder with plant lists and diagrams, something which I’ve already started.

The border above is stunning, and gives me both inspiration, and a plan for the future of my gardens. Thanks for posting, and for your hard work (and those of your helpers). The result is obviously worth the effort.

Kathy Purdy November 3, 2014, 9:21 am

Carol, if nothing else, the garden will teach you patience. Congratulations on your first 50 bulbs. May they reward you for many years to come!

Dee Nash November 2, 2014, 6:47 pm

I can’t bulbs as fast as Carol not even with a drill attachment, but I did have the same problem you did. The bulbs were so large this year that I couldn’t make the holes large enough on the first swipe. How nice that you had help this year. I especially love that the kids were involved. Teaching the love of gardening one bulb at a time.~~Dee

Carol November 2, 2014, 6:31 pm

Yep, that’s my current record… 500 crocuses in 59 minutes. I’m going to try to beat it this week with some Glory of the Snow bulbs. Fortunately, I don’t encounter rocks like you do. That would really slow me down! And I had top soil brought in when they graded my lawn so for the most part, I’ve got pretty good dirt. Every once in a while, I hit a root from a nearby tree and at the pace I am planting it can be a bit jarring, but even that doesn’t slow me down. Good luck on your “traffic stopping” project. I concentrate mostly on my back yard, so most people will drive by and never know…