It all seems so obvious now, that planting tulip bulbs in groups is waaay easier than one at a time. Well, that much I would have guessed but for some reason I thought we're not supposed to do it that way. So my 50 tulips in front of a sunny border have always sprung from 50 separate holes. But having learned that Elizabeth sticks 50 of them in ONE HOLE and GETS AWAY WITH IT, well damn, I can bunch 'em up a bit, right?
So I planted in groups of 3, 5 and 7, resulting in the digging of only 10 holes for my yearly batch of 50 tulips. And I already know they're going to look better that way because when I'm looking for a really super photo of them at their peak, I crouch and contort myself to get as many as possible in the shot. To me this is more proof that the quest for beautiful garden photographs can be a fine guide to garden design itself. ("Let's see; where can I plant this for a killer photo?")
Oh, oh, and another big advantage of bunching is that it's actually possible to put squirrel-prevention screening on top of them, which it sure wasn't when I planted all 50 scattershot among the perennials. So when I saw the squirrels digging right on top of where I'd planted them (thankfully, stopping when they hit the red pepper flakes on top of each one, but still messing up the planting) I knew I needed more protection than red pepper flakes, and it was easy to cut just 3 pieces of wire window screening to cover the tulip areas. (Note to 2008 calendar: remove the screens by late March.)
And here's one of those gardening tips to add to the frenzy of bulb worship we seem to be in the midst of over on GardenRant. Plant them in pure compost to make it super-easy. My tulip border started life in my garden as a gully, so I filled it in with pure compost and man, digging in it is a breeze. Sliding my spade in that friable black goodness, well, it's like bud-ah, to steal from an old SNL skit. And people like Elizabeth with big raised beds all know this but here in the burbs, not so much.
WHAT THE USUAL SOURCES TELL US
I went a'surfing the Web and:
- Dutch Garden's site offers the design idea that bulbs look best in informal groups of 5 to 11. Endorsing the massing in one hole? Well, no, because they go on to recommend a solid block of color or 20+ bulbs "planted just a few inches apart". So either that's lots of separate holes or a much bigger hole than I had in mind.
- Here's Cornell telling us that planting tulips 4-6 inches apart leaves enough room for bulbs to "grow for 2 or 3 years before they need to be divided." Ah, so if that's the reason we shouldn't plant them cheek by jowl I can safely ignore that advice because my tulips are destined to being yanked and composted after they fade, anyway.
- eHow has a video on the subject by the very well qualified Willi Galloway, West Coast editor of Organic Gardening Magazine, but she makes is pretty intimidating. Materials needed before digging: soft rock phosphate, bulbs, compost, trowel, chicken wire, chicken cutters. I can't really disagree with anything she recommends but it's kinda daunting, not the "Bulbs are easy-peasy" reports you read on blogs.
So are experts there to specify the ideal, while bloggers fill readers in on the reality, the good-enough, the relax-and-enjoy of growing plants?