Tulip Time

In November, I made out like a bandit when I found a variety of bargain bulbs at a local home store. Then, remembering the success of a blogging friend, Jason, I decided to plant a pair of containers in hopes of a colorful spring display for my front stoop. Here’s what the pots looked like in mid March.

Tete-a-Tete daffodils and grape hyacinths, with tulips on the way.

Tete-a-Tete daffodils and grape hyacinths, with tulips on the way.

Here’s what they look like today!

Tulip time!

Tulip time!

If you’re wondering who would plant pink tulips with orange and yellow tulips, let me explain.

End of season bargain bulbs.

End of season bargain bulbs.

Clearly, the bulb fairies had a bit of fun filling the “Spring Blend” bag, as the package only shows red, orange, and yellow tulips.

But I love the result! Don’t you?

Here’s the full bulb story in a nutshell:

Against expert advice, which discourages planting different blubs together because of varying bloom times, I decided to give it a try anyway. Bulbs in pots are typically planted much closer together and more shallow than bulbs in the ground, but I knew to arrange them so they were not touching and to provide plenty of soil under the blubs for adequate root growth. So, I added five inches of soil before carefully spacing the daffodils in the containers, and then added more layers of soil before arranging the tulips and, lastly, the grape hyacinths.

With planting complete, I watered the pots and huddled them against the wall of the garage under the overhang of the house, where cold temperatures could be somewhat moderated by the warmth of the brick wall and I could regulate soil moisture. I planned to keep the pots outside, but Old man winter had other ideas. The pots were moved inside the garage when temperatures plummeted.

At first, I made an effort to shift the containers outdoors on better days, but I soon became weary of the task and settled on leaving them in the garage. As the weeks rolled by, I simply forgot about the bulbs. Then, in mid February, I stumbled across the containers again when I was looking for my pruning shears. Surprisingly, the grape hyacinths had sprouted stringy, grass-like foliage, even though the bulbs hadn’t been watered in more than two months. As soon as the pots were returned outside and watered, the foliage perked up a bit. And it wasn’t long before the tips of tiny grape hyacinth blooms began to push through the soil. Within a few days, the daffodils were up and growing too.

You know the rest of the story.

Thanks for the inspiration, Jason. Pots of spring blubs are now an annual tradition in this Upstate garden.

Grape hyacinth (Muscari)

Grape hyacinth (Muscari)

21 thoughts on “Tulip Time

  1. Lyn

    Marian, this is just gorgeous! And what a great idea! Like the “Layered Garden”! Beautiful combo! I’d love to try this myself, but would not be able to manage moving the containers indoors or in to the garage (too heavy). Can you please tell me if it would be possible to leave them out? I thought bulbs would be good for sub-zero temps. Why did you need to move them in?

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      The bulbs would turn to mush if they froze and, of course, bulbs in containers would be much quicker to freeze than those planted in garden soil. Since our temps went down to single digits this winter, the containters had to go in the garage. If we had a normal winter, with low temps around 25, they would be fine outdoors in a protected area.

      Reply
      1. Lyn

        Thanks Marian! I’m guessing they don’t freeze completely up north because they are in the ground? I really don’t know, and I know you do!

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Liz–I’ll move them away from the front but keep them in the sun as much as possible until the foliage dies. Then I’m going to plant the grape hyacinth and Tete-a-tete blubs in the garden. Sadly, the tulips wouldn’t bloom again, so they’ll go to the compost heap.

      Reply
  2. Ruth Ann Bigger

    Been doing this type of container planting for years and usually plant complimentary viola or pansies on top. Makes a gorgeous display and reminds me to keep some watering going if needed.
    Thanks for the info on James’ dad- I ‘ll have a card in today’s mail.
    RA

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Reply
  3. Pauline

    They look wonderful and I don’t think you have to worry about colours clashing in the spring, that’s when anything goes! I also like your narcissus / grape hyacinth combo, it looks very fresh.

    Reply
  4. aneye4detail

    I love these! I’ve wanted to try bulbs, esp. tulips, in containers so maybe i’ll give it a try next fall. I’m still not quite clear why you can’t just plant and leave them be for the winter. Would they “turn to mush” because they are in the container, without normal drainage? Or, what about just daffodils in the container: would that (sort of) make the job easier? My tulips, in the ground, are putting on a magnificent show, and just in time for my women’s group meeting earlier today. Certainly is a way to impress people!!!

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Libby–I guess you could say I put the bulbs in the garage because I wasn’t willing to risk what might happen. I can’t say for sure that, even though the temp dropped to 7 degrees F, that the bulbs would have frozen in the pots if left outside. If they had been planted in the ground, certainly there would not have been a problem. But as they were in a container, I didn’t know if the soil in the container would freeze solid and the bulbs would freeze too. I have no doubt, however, if the bulb itself freezes, it will die. I’ve read that rooted bulbs will not freeze at 32 degrees F (as water does) because the carbohydrates and sugars inside the bulb act as an antifreeze; though if the temperature drops low enough they will freeze at some point.

      Reply
  5. Cathy

    I think, like Susie above, if there’s any time of year you can allow colour schemes to go haywire it is spring! We are all craving colour and I rather like the multi-coloured look! 😀

    Reply
  6. Sharon Lanier

    Absolutely shouts Spring!! Just gorgeous. In addition to the mix you have, also try mixing different types of daffodils (early, mid season & late ) together for a longer bloom time.

    Reply
  7. Chloris

    I love this sort of multi- layered pot for winter and spring. I always have one by the front door which starts off in winter with Iris reticulata and goes on until Tulip time. I love yours; the N. Tete-tete looks gorgeous with Muscari. I can never resist blue and yellow combinations.

    Reply
  8. gardeninacity

    Thanks for sharing credit, and the link. Looks like you have taken bulbs in containers to another level! Actually, I have read about mixing different kinds of bulbs in containers to create a longer season, but have never tried it. Yours really look great!

    Reply

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