How to Have More Fun Planting Flower Bulbs

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A lot of people have already written articles on the best ways to plant bulbs, full of instructions on how to get the most flowers or recommendations on the best varieties. This article is something different. I’m not going to give you any actual practical advice. This article is about how to maximize your harvest of the most important garden product of all: happiness.

Bulbs: buy early, buy extra!

Bulbs: buy early, buy extra!

We garden for one reason: to bring joy and pleasure to our lives. That’s why the perfect garden is different for every person, and why my special bulb-planting method is fundamentally ridiculous, but it ensures that you, the gardener, have fun every step of the way. This method of planting bulbs is a little more complex than the normal way, but I’m going to break it down into eight easy steps that will guide you to realizing your best bulb-planting season ever.

Step 1: Order early.

There are some reasonable, practical reasons to recommend early ordering. Most bulb sellers offer discounts on early orders, and you’ll get the widest selection because the most exciting bulbs often sell out. Those reasons are all well and good, but here’s the only reason that matters: Ordering as early as possible makes it much easier to carry out step two of my bulb-planting process.

Step 2: Forget everything you ordered.

This step is pretty easy. It is also critically important. Once you place you order, don’t think about it again. Don’t open your confirmation e-mail or check over the list you made. Get out in the garden doing other things and put your bulbs as far as possible from your mind. This makes it possible to carry out step three.

Step 3: The reveal.

Wait for the magical day when a big brown box arrives on your doorstep, open it up and revel in the surprise of all the wonderful things you ordered! This is your first harvest of happiness, long before the bulbs are even in the ground. It is like your birthday, only you don’t get weird gifts that you don’t want. You get a box of surprise presents, and they are all thing that you love because you picked them out yourself and then cleverly forgot about them. Sit and smile over your bounty of beautiful bulbs, pull out your old catalogs and look up the varieties you’ve forgotten so you can remember how amazingly beautiful they are.

Step 4: Forget again.

Hide that packing list where you can find it in the spring, but don’t look at it even once all winter long. Forget you ever heard of a daffodil called ‘Thalia’ or a tulip called ‘Princess Irene’. Sometimes young gardeners have trouble forgetting, but it gets much easier with each passing year. As you are working to forget, it is time for best step of them all.

Step 5: Have other people hide your bulbs.

The best way to do this is to get a group of three or four gardening friends and spend a day traveling to each other’s houses. At each house, the gardener who lives there hands over their bulbs then goes inside, draws the curtains and makes cookies, sandwiches or maybe cocktails, depending on your tastes. Everyone else goes outside and plants their bulbs wherever they think is best. Once everything is planted, it is onto the next house. Repeat until every gardener has had all their bulbs planted, but no one knows where, exactly, their bulbs are. 

Alternatively, you can try a method I call bulb bombing, which means sneaking into someone’s garden and planting bulbs without their knowledge or permission. Only do this to someone you know extremely well, but do give it a try if you get a chance. I’ve had a blast every time I’ve done it. Don’t plant five or six or something. Plant by the hundreds, a giant sweep of tulips—something dramatic, over the top.

Finally, for those last-minute impulse bulb purchases on clearance at the garden center: Plant those in your own garden, but don’t label them and do your best to forget where you put them.

Step 6: Go on a treasure hunt.

When the snow melts and warm weather finally arrives, creep around your garden peering at every inch of the ground. Look for tiny bumps of green and start wondering what, exactly, each treasure is. Wait with bated breath while the buds swell, until the glorious day you’ll come out to the garden and see your mystery bulbs in full bloom, painting color over your garden.

Enjoy the bulbs in your garden, and then stop by the friend that you bulb bombed. Strike up a casual conversation. Ask them what’s new in the garden and act surprised when they tell you that 500 of their favorite crocuses materialized over the winter. “Could the squirrels have planted them?” you can ask. “There are FIVE HUNDRED of them!” they’ll reply. You can confess, eventually, if you want, but don’t mention that the 500 crocuses are going to be followed shortly by 1,000 tulips they don’t know about either.

Step 7: Giggle with happiness.

I don’t need to explain this step, do I? See flowers. Be happy. Giggle a little. Done.

Step 8: Do it all again, unless you hate happiness.

This isn’t the most practical way to plant bulbs. It is silly and confusing and will probably result in some bulbs being planted in spots that aren’t the best for them or don’t make sense with your overall design scheme. Maybe this technique isn’t for everyone, but I garden for joy. Lots of things in the garden make me happy, but I’ve yet to have a garden experience more joyful than finding an unexpected clump of perfect daffodils blooming away in the corner of the garden, or hearing my best friend say, “You planted ALL THESE? Is there anything else?!” So, as soon one treasure hunt or bulb bombing is finished, sit down and start planning your next one. And don’t forget to giggle with happiness while you do it.