Hello from 82 degree weather in Seattle, what a weekend! It feels like August, but it's only April, and that means it's time to order some flower bulbs. You might have heard me blab on about it on Instagram, but if not - this year I'm organizing a Flower Bulb Lasagna Grow Along! Which means we can plant some gorgeous spring-blooming pots together for our porches, balconies, front steps, or patios. The beauty is that no matter how much outdoor space you have, you probably have enough for some flowers in a pot.
I call these 'bulb lasagnas' thanks to all the British gardeners I follow - basically it just means that you layer some flower bulbs in a pot. The really cool thing is if you stagger the bloom time when you plan your bulbs, one pot can have fresh flowers and happy spring colors for a couple months.
For this grow along, we won't plant anything until this fall (2021), and the flowers will bloom next spring (2022). I'll probably do some early demo pots with videos and posts in September so that you have the info handy when it's the right time for your climate, but here in Seattle (Zone 8) I usually plant in October or November, and you can get away with planting bulbs as late as December/early January. The bulbs need about 2-3 months of cold to initiate proper root growth, so planting time will depend on your climate. More info about that later!
For now I just want to focus on ordering. During the pandemic, gardening has had a HUGE surge in interest within the US and worldwide because so many people have been at home, and because gardening has such therapeutic qualities. The increased interest is so exciting, but the downside is that seeds, bulbs, and garden supplies have been selling out faster than ever before. And when the people who I think of as 'flower moguls', like Erin Benzakein at Floret Flower Farm, post about their favorite flower it will sell out nationwide! Floret just published their Favorite Daffodils & Narcissus Guide, which is an incredible resource, and I'm sure it will add to the flying-off-the-shelf effect!
So as early as it seems, I would highly recommend ordering your bulbs soon, especially if you want the sought-after varieties. Of course there will be plenty of tulip and daffodil bulbs available through the fall at your local nursery or online - these will be gorgeous and I love the surprises that can come from trying something new, but if you have your heart set on specific tulips and daffodils, the sooner the better for getting your order in.
I'll send planting details out this fall, and you do not need to have a flower pot yet, but to give you the general idea that will help with thinking about your order: you'll want to use a flower pot that is at least 12 inches deep so that the bulbs have enough depth and nutrients below them. The wider the pot, the more bulbs you'll need to fill it up. I like to really pack the bulbs in so that you see a lot of green & a lot of flowers once in bloom - and so that you don't see a lot of bare soil.
As a baseline, in a standard large terra cotta pot (about 14 inches high & 17 inches wide), I would recommend planting three layers using the following 'lasagna recipe':
Either 10-12 grape hyacinth (muscari) or 12-16 spring crocus on the top
8-10 early or mid-spring daffodils in the middle
7-8 late-spring tulips on the bottom
Round pots are usually smaller at the bottom and the width increases towards the top, which is why I recommend a few less bulbs on the bottom layer. As for the grape hyacinth vs. crocus debate, here's a few notes about each. Grape hyacinth bloom around the same time as the daffodils, so you miss a super early bloomer (like crocus) if you go this route, but I think they make the pot look so pulled together when planted in a circle towards the outside rim of the pot. They kind of encase the other flowers with a defined border. On the other hand, crocus are the earliest to bloom and it is one of the happiest sights to see their bright color pop up from the soil in what feels like the dead of winter. Of course you could try planting both hyacinth and crocus on the top layer, but fair warning - it might get a little crowded! What I end up doing is planting multiple pots, some with crocus, some with hyacinth, so that I can get the best of both worlds. When I demo in the fall I'll be sure to show both options for the top layer.
I'm going to base everything on a standard large pot and the flower recipe above to make it easier for people to follow. But variation is the best part of life! If you're going for something bigger, like a wine barrel or galvanized tub - heart eye emojis to you, and up the quantity of your order accordingly. If you have a smaller pot or would like to keep it more cost effective you can of course just plant one type of flower without layers, or do two layers instead of three! If your container doesn't slope like a round pot (where the bottom circumference is smaller than the top), you may want to plan on a few more bulbs for the bottom layer. And if you want to use a different recipe (aka different types of flowers), there are so many beautiful spring bloomers you can try! Just think about the timing and plant your latest bloomer on the bottom, mid-bloomer in the middle, and early bloomer on top. I do this bloom-time staggering so that I can enjoy bright color on my doorsteps for several weeks, and to give each type of flower a little of it's own space. But you can also choose to plant bulbs that will bloom together in one flush rather than staggering the timing - the pot just won't be in bloom as long.
Planning & Ordering
Here are a few tips for planning and ordering. First off, I would recommend to be realistic about quantities so that you don't end up with 500 bulbs and nowhere to plant them. You don't have to have the pot or soil or exact quantity yet, but - are you going to plant one container or six? A little planning will keep you focused and help keep costs down. I share that as someone who literally cannot help myself when it comes to flowers and always over-orders! On the other hand, bulb lasagnas are one of my favorite gifts to give for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. So you might want to factor that into your quantities.
Next, are you going to follow my recipe above, or try something different? You do you, boo! - but just consider writing down a recipe before you order. Last year I had ordered about 20 different types of bulbs for pots, and they all came in the mail at different times from different companies and I didn't have a solid plan (or at least, I didn't remember it), so I had to go back to the websites to track down when each bloomed. I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had put more thought into figuring that out before I ordered and writing it down somewhere.
I would recommend to start with planning the general type of flowers and the bloom time you want (for example: early spring crocus, mid-spring daffodils, and late-spring tulips) before you get to the bulb websites so that it's not as overwhelming when you start to look at colors and shapes and single v. double flowers, etc. Many websites let you search by bloom time which is a really nice feature! You can just plug in late-flowering tulips and see your options instead of being tempted by something else. For this grow along, everything will be fall planted, spring blooming, so when you go search for bulbs online, look in the "fall planting" sections.
A few other considerations:
Scent - I love scented flowers! Consider that when picking your bulbs.
Cut Flowers - If you think you might cut any of the flowers to bring inside, you might want to check if the bulbs produce good cut flowers before purchasing. Most sites have a cut flower symbol.
Multiple Pots - If you're going to plant multiple pots for the same location, do you want each pot to have the same types of flowers and the same colors, or different? Doing the same looks really clean, but different in each pot allows you to try more varieties, and you can still coordinate the color palate for a pulled together look. Or you can be like me and say yes to all colors all the time.
Crocus, hyacinth, and daffodils are all usually great repeat bloomers year-after-year, but tulip size/attributes will usually decline from year to year. There are some tulip varieties that come back better than others, so you can look for those (i.e. species tulips and Darwin hybrid tulips), or you can replant the pots in a few years if the tulips aren't as gorge.
Here are a few example recipes with specific varieties that you can use as inspiration/information, or go ahead and use the exact recipes!
Recipe 1 - I did this mix with these exact linked bulbs for some of my 2021 pots that are flowering now, and am really happy with them.
Early-Spring Crocus: Large-flowering blue moon crocus
Early/Mid-Spring Daffodil: This pink daffodil mix is so gorgeous and included some soft pink butterfly daffodils that were some of my favorite this year - pictured below
Late-Spring Tulip: This double pink mix includes big beautiful double tulips in white, pink, and purpley-pink
Blue moon crocus photo from Eden Brothers.
Recipe 2 - Some favorites, combined.
Grape Hyacinth: I tend to stick to the classic armeniacum blue, but white, latiofolium, and delft blue are beautiful, and for 2022 I even ordered some of these (pricey) pink sunrise grape hyacinths to try
Late-Spring Tulip: Charming beauty is a stunner
Pink sunrise grape hyacinth photo from Dutch Grown; charming beauty tulip photo from Eden Brothers.
Recipe 3 - Cheery spring yellows.
Early-Spring Crocus: Barcelona mix
Early-Spring Daffodil: Queen's day
Mid-Spring Tulip: Sensual touch
Note that queen's day daffodil is an early variety, and sensual touch tulip is a mid-spring variety, so the timeline is shifted up but still a nice staggered combo.
Barcelona mix crocus & sensual touch tulip photos from Dutch Grown, queen's day daffodil photo from RoozenGaarde.
I could give a million example recipes - there are so many gorgeous flowers & combinations to choose from! But I hope these examples will be a good starting point for getting the ball rolling with your own beautiful pot.
Now you're ready to be let loose to the websites! Here are some of my favorite places to order bulbs:
Dutch Grown (their 'Elite Bulb' section is my Achilles heel)
RoozenGaarde (right here in Washington!)
I've linked to the fall planting sections for each. Just wanted to add a note that I have ordered bulbs and had a great experience from each of these places, and these are my genuine recommendations - I was not sponsored or paid by anyone from these companies to recommend them.
Last Thoughts (for now)
If you're taking to Instagram to post the bulbs you're ordering, or to post throughout the grow along, don't forget to tag me (@growgirlseattle) so I can see the cool varieties you ordered and follow along! The hashtag for the grow along will be: #ggsbulblasagna - if you add that hashtag to your post, everyone who is participating can click the hashtag and see each other's posts. I think it will be really fun to see what everyone comes up with and how they grow. I also think this will be a fun way to connect with those of you who live outside of Seattle!
If you're subscribed to our mailing list, you will get the planting info sent to your inbox in early fall, and if you're not subscribed you can join the list here so that you automatically get the info. Happy ordering and pop any comments/questions you might have below.
A couple last things for those of you in Seattle -
If you don't want to go through the fuss of figuring out which bulbs to buy, or you missed some I will be selling curated bulb kits this fall so you can keep an eye out for that. I will also be doing a bulb kit giveaway!
If you can't participate in the grow along, or gardening isn't your thing, I will have some bulb lasagnas available next spring. I'll do all the work and drop on your doorstep when they're about to bloom.
All photos in this post were taken by me, unless otherwise stated.