Planting Tulips and Hope for Spring

I have always found gardening to be an act of great hope, because planting requires a gardener to believe that in time beautiful things will grow.

Every gardener has their favorite plants and seasons. I happen love spring and tulips. I think one of the keys to gardening is knowing your yard’s best seasons and then investing and planting around them. The truth is spring is my garden’s small chance to shine. My yard has lots of mature trees and spring gives me an opportunity to plant flowers in parts of my garden that normally get heavy shade. So when fall comes I look forward to planning for spring.

This past April, I was especially grateful to see all the beautiful flowers begin to appear. There is something so hopeful about all those bright green leaves and colorful blooms. May in Chicago is an amazing time. The parks and the downtown streets are overflowing with tulips and spring plantings. This year since the gardens and parks were all closed I really loved and appreciated all the homegrown flowers in my neighbors’ gardens.

Late October and early November is bulb planting season in the Midwest. We have already had a couple of snow flurries, so I have been clearing out my flowerbeds and getting ready for spring. This year one of my plans is to create more bulb planters. I love how a flowerpot or two can brighten my front door or back porch.  The thing I like about container planting is that it doesn’t take many bulbs to create something beautiful. Three bulbs in a small pot and five to seven bulbs in a medium sized pot are enough to make a statement.

Chicago winters get cold, so winter container gardening can have its challenges. A few years ago I was determined to find a way to create my own spring planters without a greenhouse. So I began planting some of my bulbs in recycled plastic nursery pots that I bury in the ground. The ground keeps my bulbs insulated from the cold and safe from squirrels. It also takes very little maintenance once you get them planted and covered with soil and mulch. Mother Nature keeps them protected so I don’t have to worry about them. Then in spring when they grow and flower buds appear I dig the containers up and transfer them to my more decorative pots.

The key thing when planting bulbs is to make sure that they are planted to the correct depth. Generally speaking tulips and daffodils can be grouped close together in a pot but the depth is what keeps them happy. They need to be planted six to eight inches deep depending on the bulb size. I plant to the deeper end of the range here in Chicago so that when the temperature plunges my bulbs will be safe.

In warmer climates, garden zones 7 to 10, you may need to refrigerate your bulbs before planting them in December or early January. Colorblends, a bulb wholesaler that I like has lots specific information about planting times for each part of the country.

I love looking to other gardens for ideas. This cluster of light pink tulips with a few pansies and violas is a simple but pretty spring flowerpot. Add some willow branches to a similar arrangement and you have what looks like a beautiful spring basket.

This blue flowerpot is from my front walk this past spring. I loved the botanical gardens tulip pots so much that I created by own using a blend of pink and red tulips. Bedding plants were hard to find this past spring due to all the pandemic shutdowns so I was happy to have a few extra pots that I had grown.

This gorgeous planter at a historic home in my neighborhood is overflowing with spring bulbs. I love their mix of daffodils, early blooming tulips and hyacinths. It’s like a whole miniature spring garden in a flowerpot.

Eight months into this pandemic I think I understand why so many people have begun to garden: planting a garden is an act of great hope. Hope and believing that beautiful things will grow again is more important than ever. It may be fall, but I am already thinking about spring. This year I have big garden plans I am planting bulbs in both my yard and at my daughters’ school so I have a busy week or two ahead of me. Even if you don’t have time to plant an entire flower bed of tulips or daffodils, planting a few bulbs in pots is a simple way to add some flowers to your garden this spring. So here’s to a more hopeful and colorful spring! Happy planting!

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