By no means have I left the dirt in my dust-my gardening season is not yet over.  I still have projects in process.  But one of my fall gardening projects did come to a close today.  We’re all potted up.  I was determined to pot spring bulbs in containers this year-I ordered scads of them.  Even Steve started to complain about the sheer numbers.  OK, he and his crews are tired-it has been a busy season, and the holidays are yet to come.  But he did oblige-and he obliged in a significant way with his home-composted and sand-leavened bulb soil-does it not look scrumptious? 

Bags full of that precious and special compost found its way to the shop.  There was much discussion about what bulbs would seem good together, what bulbs asked for a simple mass, what mixes of the same type bulb might make for interesting spring color.

The tulipa are the Sarah Bernhardts of the spring garden. Lush leaves, dramatically thin stalks and large showy flowers-what gardener is not longing for them come spring?  It is indeed a natural miracle that a flowering plant that can top out at better than 30 inches is programmed and ready to go inside these 2″ diameter brown orbs.   

These World Expression tulips in my window boxes were drop dead gorgeous for weeks.  Potting bulbs in window boxes that put the roots above ground is a dicey move-in a bitterly cold winter they could have frozen solid, and rotted by spring.  But why not try?  That effort paid off; my spring at the shop was beautiful. 

It is not so easy to keep that picture of those tulips in mind, when the fall is cold, and the planting circumstances less than charming.  Putting little brown bits into the soil is just about the most unsatisfying garden chore of all-there will be nothing to show for all of that effort for the next six months. 

But when April comes around, I will be happy for today’s effort.  The daffodils blooming set every gardening heart to beating a little faster; spring is on the way.     

I chose a variety of  standard containers.  Fiber pots, made from recycled cardboard, are a good choice. Though they will degrade, they degrade slowly. Kept from any contact with a hard surface, you might get three years out of them. The trick to getting long life from a fiber pot is to elevate it off the hard surface.  This allows the bottom to dry out, and stay intact.  Unlike a cardboard box, a fiber pot that dries out is just as strong as it was originally.  In the spring, they can be dropped into a more dressy container with ease.  When the bulbs bloom, the news will be all about what is inside-not the container.

Bulbs are beautiful in containers.  Diminuitive bulbs show and grow best in shallow containers.  The low large classic terra cotta shape is known as a bulb pan.  Too large a pot for any plant can encourage rot; the larger the soil mass, the slower it will drain and dry out.  These concrete faux bois planters are no more than 8 inches deep. 

These grape hyacinths were planted in very small pots-3″ containers.  That made transplanting them into a larger planter of lettuce and violas easy.  Muscari bloom a long time in the spring, especially should the night temperatures stay chilly.

I am sure this is the third time I have talked about bulbs in containers this fall-why am I still talking about it?  The chances are good that there are still bulbs available; at this time of year, they are priced to go.  If you are like me, you have a stack or a stash of pots available to you.  So why not fill them with bulbs?

I have not counted how many pots there are here, but my instinct says I will have a very good show come April. Even if you did not plant one bulb in ground this fall, no need to do without them.  What are you doing Sunday?  Rumor has it that nature has decided to do 60 degrees that day-perfect for a little spring gardening.


  1. we’re on the same wavelength…i found some leftover tulip bulbs in the garage yesterday and was planning on sticking them in a large, concrete bird bath today….

  2. I wasn’t sure in the last picture, do you store them outside? Do you cover them with a tarp?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sheila, I do not store them outside-if I did, I would mulch them heavily. I will keep them outside until after the holidays. I store them in our unheated garage-which gets very cold, but the concrete floor is warmed by the thermal heat of the ground. Bulbs above ground-even in soil- often freeze too hard outside, and the bulbs rot as a result. I move them out as early as I think prudent in March-so they bloom on a natural schedule. Deborah

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