Dutch Masters

No, I’m not talking about Vermeer or Rembrandt.  I’m talking about Keukenhof in the Netherlands, the world’s largest flower garden with its 7 million flower bulbs.  Or, if you can’t go that far, you can find your own fields of daffodils and tulips here in the Skagit Valley.

Tulips are traditionally planted in the fall so the bulbs can experience the 16-20 weeks of cold they need to bloom well. If you’re growing tulips for bulb production, then you’ll cut off each flower so the plant puts its energy into bulb growth.  Then the plants are lifted in June, cleaned, sorted and packaged, and the whole cycle starts again. The display gardens take a lot of work to design and plant.

Tulips at Roozengaarde
Tulips at Roozengaarde

Now, who plants all those bulbs? Exhausted yet, just thinking about it? Well, here’s a trick to get all of those bulbs planted in a jiffy … use the Dutch Masters method! Don’t hold the trowel with the scoop facing outwards like this, bending your wrist, and straining your arm.

The wrong way to plant bulbs | #eTilth
The wrong way to plant bulbs

Instead, scatter the bulbs across your planting area, and grip the trowel in your fist, with the scoop facing you. Start with the bulbs closest to you, and quickly pull the dirt towards you.

Bulb Planting Correctly | #eTilth
Start scooping towards you.

Drop in the bulb behind the trowel and move onto the next hole. Don’t bother to fill in the hole just yet.

Bulb Planting Correctly | #eTilth
Drop the bulb behind the trowel

Continue with the rest of the bulbs placed in even arcs, left to right, working away from you. Each scoop of the trowel will fill in and cover the bulbs in the previous row you just planted.

Bulb Planting Correctly | #eTilth
The bulbs get covered up as you work

Last weekend (I know, I’m terribly late), I planted 200 bulbs in 30 minutes yesterday. I used short bits of sticks to mark where I planted the Alliums and Narcissus to prevent me from digging into them when I’m planting the perennials and shrubs later.

I carefully placed each of the bulbs in the long drift of Tulipa ‘Oxford’ by ripping a hole in the bottom of the bag and flinging it across the bed. The boards help me distribute my weight without compacting the soil.

Bulb planting techniques | #eTilth
Bulb planting techniques

And soon, your garden will look like this, effortlessly.

Densely planted Tulipa 'Zurel' | #eTilth
Densely planted Tulipa ‘Zurel’

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