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There are two types of gardeners: those who like the proverbial ant, plan their spring gardens the preceding fall, and those who, like the proverbial grasshopper, get so caught up admiring the fall foliage that they fail to prepare for spring. Luckily, versatile bulbs can fit into either gardening style. Grasshopper-like gardeners can make up for their autumnal procrastination by planting their forgotten bulbs (provided they were kept in a cool, dark place during the winter) in containers. Antlike gardeners can add a bit of spontaneity to their gardens by combining bulbs they’ve saved for forcing with early annuals to create a unique display.

BULBS IN POTS: The Best for Both Worlds

Advantages for grasshoppers: Pots allow the procrastinating gardener to quickly create ideal growing conditions for young plants. Didn’t prepare your soil properly in the fall? Make up for it now with a small pot of perfect soil.

Advantages for ants: Do you always plan your garden down to the last inch? Include a spontaneous element in your plot by picking up some early annuals at your local nursery and combining them with bulbs you planned to force indoors.

Advantages for both:

Mobility. If you dislike the way your flowers look in one area of the garden, you can move the pot to a different location. When your flowers begin to decline, you can move their container out of sight so as not to detract from your flourishing plants.

A chance to be daring. Containers allow you to try out new plant combinations on a small scale before implementing them in your garden. Want to try an outrageously orange tulip next to a bright pink pansy? Try it in a container first and if you don’t like the combination, you don’t have to dig up an entire border.


Bulbs and early annuals are a match made in heaven, as most thrive in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Try this grouping of hyacinths [Hy-acinthus orientalist, muscari [Muscari armeniacurri), pansies (Viola wit-trockiana), and forget-me-nots [Myosotis spp.) to welcome spring back to your garden. (To learn more about early annuals to pair with bulbs, read Alice McGowan’s article “Planting Early” on page 54.)

  • Choose a container with plenty of drainage holes and line your container with crocks or pebbles to ensure that water will drain quickly.

  • Top off your drainage material with a moderately fertile soil mix.

  • Plant your bulbs at the appropriate depth. Hyacinths should be planted at three to five inches and muscari at two to three inches. You can grow pansies and forget-me-nots from seed or pick up seedlings at your local nursery.

  • Bulbs should be kept moist (though not wet), so be sure to water regularly. Use a watering container with a rose attachment to avoid disturbing the soil.

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