How To Plant Spring Bulbs Like A Flower Farmer



Once upon a time we dreamt of moving to the country to start a flower farm.

We did. Sort of. We started. We stopped. We started again. Along the way, we learned a lot about small-scale, intensive flower growing techniques and about ourselves.


Now, after some of life's not so unexpected twists and turns, here we are back in the city. But, I'm not letting the dream slip away. Enter our backyard flower farm and grand plans for spring bulbs galore.


Daffodils, tulips, crocuses, alliums. Just to name a few of the types of bulbs planted in the fall before the ground freezes. They sleep, cozy in the underground until the spring's sun and warmth awaken them into a riot of forgotten colour.


Hang tight as I share with you some of the knowledge we've acquired about planting bulbs like a pro with hopes that you can be inspired to create your own garden delights - however big or small your space, or your flower fantasies.




THE BULBS WERE POPPING


A few years ago I was in Skagit Valley about an hour north of Seattle in an area known for its floriculture and annual tulip festival.


Everywhere we turned bulbs were busting out all over.


Rows upon rows of daffodils and tulips. Flower farmers treat these spring blooms as annuals and pluck them - bulbs, roots and all - out of the ground and pile them in wooden pallets. Some flowers are left in situ to complete the growing cycle so the bulbs can regenerate and be used to grow again.



THE HARVARD OF FOWERS


The real reason I was in tulip country though was to attend one of the last in-person workshops at Erin and Chris Benzakein's iconic Washington flower farm Floret. Erin's popularity as a purveyor of beautiful blooms and as a teacher of the techniques on how to grow them has resulted in rapture amongst her fans. I was no different as I became student and disciple.


Smitten, I drank in every delicious drop.


Here's what I learned about spring bulbs:

  • It all starts with the best bulbs - good size, good health and good sources

  • Flower farmers treat spring bulbs as annuals - taking the bulb, root and all, out of the ground just as the blooms begin to ripen

  • The flowers can store longer in this state

  • As well, since the crop is being harvested for the blooms, they would be cut before the bulb is able to nourish and thus the bulb is weakened and its reliability to reproduce flourishing blooms the following season is diminished

  • Flower farmers need to maximize growing space and make harvesting easier, so when planted, the bulbs are placed way closer together than most package directions recommend

  • While, I think they look beautiful no matter how they bloom, professional growers plant practically in bulk and in rows in a manner that makes sense for their business

  • Flower farmers try to extend the growing season by forcing bulbs during winter months and cajoling blooms in very early spring by planting bulbs under the cover of hoop houses

  • Consumers of blooms are becoming more informed and are seeking alternative, specialty varieties and those which are sustainably and locally grown


More than flowers - read all about my experience at Floret here.


Here I am with a bouquet of stunning Tulips Sensual Touch grown at Floret. On the right, tucked in like a full chocolate box, tulips get a jump on the g