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Why Perfectly Normal Bloggers Plant Tulips in the Middle of Winter

By 12/15/2013February 24th, 201740 Comments

Last year my friend Penelope Trunk planted 15,000 20,000 tulips. She planted them all winter long. Does she live in Portland, California even? No, she lives in Wisconsin.

We rocked it out in our blogging webinar last week by the way! More on that this week.

white tulips


{Love the idea of planting white pansies and then the tulips grow through them!}

This fall I ordered 300 white tulips. A far cry from 15,000 but I thought,’that still seems like a lot, I should do my front and back yard right?  After a few hours spent planting at the end of November, I only, barely had enough for my front yard, let alone the back.

So I ordered more. 200 for the back yard, and then 100 white daffodils and 40 Crocuses. Today was a mild and balmy day after the freezing weather we’ve had for a few weeks so I knew I better get out there and plant them.

First, it took me 3 hours to clean up the garden. I clipped, raked miscellaneous leaves, cut back the lambs ear that had finally died in the front yard. Then I opened the box of bulbs. I started to worry because they  were all sprouting already and some of them were mouldy.

wrapped tulips

The solution to mouldy bulbs?  I started planting like a mad woman. With my tulip digger, which in the end, was bad quality even though it looked heavy duty when I bought it.

At the end of today, I was lying beside the beds my back hurt so much, but I was determined to get them in the ground. Who knows when I’d have another chance?

Terreeia googled what to do about mouldy bulbs and it said you should wash them, that it happens all the time. But I was already at the end of planting them so I should have thought of that earlier.  I started all this gardening around 9:30 AM this morning, at 1:00 PM Terreeia brought out pureed pumpkin soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. So good.

Later, I emailed Penelope,

‘How on earth did you ever plant 15,000 bulbs?

Tulips in the Winter


She said “I planted them with full-on snow gear (above). And the snow cover kept the ground from freezing.” You can plant tulips as long as the ground is not frozen.

Then, when I told her that I was lying on the ground, planting tulips with my useless digger she emailed me back:

‘Something i learned: you really need expensive tools to garden in the snow.’

I said, “Did you ever post pictures all those tulips? She sent me a picture. This is what arrived:



Okay, I did expect a more dramatic picture even though only 5,000 came up in the end. I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, I’m sitting here, on the sofa, writing this post, my face is beet red and my back is throbbing from pain and Terreeia just shakes her head. “Do you have to do everything not now, but RIGHT NOW? To the point of extreme pain?”

Yes. It’s my personality type (entj) I informed her. Penelope’s is the same.  Plus, I’ll have some great pictures for my blog in the Spring time.

And that is what drives my extremist behaviour.

christmas tulips

It’s for YOU.

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  • Oh, my dear Maria — what I would have given to be able to plant tulips today. It was -34C before wind chill here this morning…And it has been like this for close to two weeks now!!! I hope some good wine and a hot bath have eased your temporary discomfort. I know you will be rewarded handsomely come spring. (Which can’t come soon enough for me!)

  • All white should be beautiful! Go nurse you back, girl!

  • Lisa says:

    INTJ. So worth your time and effort – I can’t even begin to be effusive enough! (I’m a Landscape Designer – fan – and webinar participant.) Virginia (zone 7) allows me enough latitude to plant well into December. You’ll be so delighted you’ll do it again! (and again, and again…)

  • Heddy bing says:

    I can relate. Three days of decorating my own house including the front entry and front yard I am exhausted. Back yard waits til tomorrow afternoon and I still have 300 tulips to plant!

  • Maria, you are so lucky to planting tulip bulbs at this time when we are in a deep freeze here in Toronto, shovelling ourselves out of heaps of snow. I bet your garden will look amazing!

  • Linda Leyble says:

    I wish I could plant that many tulips in my front yard – we have a deer issue and I would have to always apply some kind if preventative in order to keep them from eating them in the spring. I made the mistake once, first year I lived here – and after my back breaking planting of about 150 tulips 13 years ago – I had the pleasure (hah) of waking up to nothing but stems that following spring!

    But now you have me thinking I should start planting some in the backyard. Only once did i see a very athletic deer jump our high fence to get in…and never again. So…after my consultation today I may be at the nursery! Before it starts snowing here tomorrow!


    • Maggie S says:

      Deer will not eat daffodils and there are ALL kinds of beautiful ones and ones that boom at different times.
      Daffodils are also perennial.
      “Brent and Becky’s bulbs” is a great source.

      • Babs Loyd says:

        Thanks for the daffodil advice re deer. I love Iris but have hesitated to plant them in our front yard. Now, I will plant daff’s and use the Iris in our back yard.

  • Amy Burger says:

    You give me hope…I have a box of tulip bulbs in my garage that I have yet to plant! I think bulbs are proof that there will be a tomorrow. Pure magic.

    • Ginene Nagel says:

      I like what you said about bulbs being proof that there will be a tomorrow. I always think after planting that it is wonderful to have this to look forward to throughout the winter.
      P.S. Everyone, plant perennial bulbs.

  • Joanne says:

    The ONLY way to plant bulbs is with a bulb drill and heavy duty electric drill. I’ve burned up more than one drill doing this, so it has to be a very strong one. The best thing about daffodils (besides being unpalatable to deer and squirrels) is that they multiply every year. I occasionally dig up a clump and replant elsewhere.
    “Species” tulips will come back for a number of years, the hybrids will fizzle out after a few years and stopped blooming.

  • KNJ says:

    What a fantastic story. I feel your pain. When we first moved in and internet shopping was relatively new, I decided to order bulbs. I had such a great time looking at the online photos and just kept “adding to cart.” I must have been in a total fog when I checked out since the boxes of bulbs just kept arriving. I had over 3,000 bulbs. So I planted and I planted til I just couldn’t move. BUT the joy we’ve been getting for the past 8 years each spring has been worth it. Some of the bulbs were naturalizing and even doubled. What a delight to read your post. Your spring will be more beautiful than ever. Thank you so much for bringing back memories!

  • Mary says:

    Every Fall I think about planting bulbs but past planting efforts have been a major fail. I do not have a green thumb! It’s very discouraging. Not to mention a waste of my money.
    Next Spring your flowers will be lovely.

    • Ginene Nagel says:

      I wonder if you are planting them too deep or upside down. Either way, if you turn over the soil in the fall, digging to the depth of the shovel you might be surprised to see some come up the following spring. It is a lot of work, I know.

  • Alison says:

    From where do you and Penelope recommend buying them? I can’t wait until it warms up in Oakville to do this! I really want the same look for my front yard.

  • Vicki says:

    I do not have a green thumb either. Several years ago a friend said that planting bulbs was no big deal. She told me to dig a fairly large hole 8″x 8″ or even a little bigger. Drop 6-8 bulbs into the hole and cover over. I must have purchased 500 bulbs and only daffodils (several kinds) because the deer and squirrels eat the tulips. The holes were about 12 inches apart. The results were spectacular. They lined my entire front beds and was just the happiest spring of yellow and white.
    You have to do this every fall because this method does not produce the way individual planting does but after several years the sight of those daffodils made my aching back worth it. Try to plant slightly behind the first years bulbs and the next year slightly in front so you do not dig up last years crop.
    Happy Holidays!

  • A trick to mass planting tulips is not to plant them individually, but to dig out the entire area to be “tuliped” . Set the bulbs upright in the area and then add soil. I never use the individual tulip planter as I never plant individual tulips. Even if planted between say…Hostas, a one foot space should be available. This techinque is very similar to how I plant a hedge of anykind. Dig a trench, set the plants in and then backfill.

    • megeranski says:

      yes was going to say — i plant bulbs when a new garden goes it, and simply set them in place, the heap the dirt on top of them, en masse.

      guess every one of us has planted them individually. once. lol
      with an auger. once. roflol

      get this — i planted mine in the yard when i was really really young. hahahhaha

      yes, the tulips will be gorgeous, but i never bother, myself. only daffies and crocus, and have discovered allum recently — yum!!

  • You and Penelope definitely rocked the webinar on blogging Maria! Tulips are such a great spring gift. When I was doing treatment for bc, my mom planted a whole bunch (ok not 1,000) of tulips in the fall and said to me these would be a gift when I was all finished~ I can’t tell you what a delight they were. Now if I could just talk to the squirrels that like to rearrange them. Planting thousands would solve this 🙂 Can’t wait to see your photos this spring.

  • SandyCGC says:

    Tulips are my favorite (my choice over the most expensive red roses every time) but here in the Arizona desert, don’t think they’d be happy and don’t have any good soil in my courtyard. Am attending a container gardening class for flowers next month and the gal is an expert here in Arizona so I’ll see what might be possible . Meanwhile, I’ll wait for pics of your beautiful yard, Maria.

    By the way, if you don’t already know it, if your vase of tulips has a drooper, dropping in several copper pennies really does work. I dropped some pennies in the vase I’d given my best friend one evening while we were drinking wine and visiting, and within 30 minutes, the tulip which was kissing the top of the coffee table was now standing gracefully “straight up” with the others.

  • Maria, I love this post and white flowers of any kind (peonies, lilacs, roses, hydrangea). I think green and white in a garden is so elegant and it gets a lot of nice comments from passers-by. Now I’m thinking about planting some of those (damn) tulips since my indoor paper-whites have expired. But, just the thought of it, brrrrrr. But first, I’ll just bring my coffee in front of the fire and give it all a ‘think.’

    I have ‘pinned’ the pictures to 2 of my Pinterest boards with your website sourced.

  • Ellie says:

    I agree with the bulb drill–you can buy an attachment that goes right on your drill. It is the only way to plant tulips & daffodils and other large bulbs. For crocuses and smaller things. a trowel works fine. I find if you plant after a heavy rain, the ground is soft enough to plant the bulbs here in the south with clay — otherwise you need a pickaxe to get through dry clay – no drill could do it. You will completely appreciate the beauty in the spring. Watch out for those squirrels, they do tend to dig them up. Also – make sure you fertilize them in the spring per directions – it is really worth it.

  • jackie says:

    I so don’t feel an ounce of sympathy for you because I’m thinking you don’t even have any snow out on the island do you!? We are in “real” Canada with 20 feet of snow and blizzards and bad roads and for someone to be PLANTING TULIPS I have only jealousy. Screw your back haha!

    • Barbara says:

      Maria isn’t on the island, she is east of Vancouver.
      But Vancouver Island had really cold weather last week and snow.

  • Andie says:

    planted 2,000 bulbs in the Midwestern snow using an auger that attaches to a drill! The auger is made solely for this purpose. It wasn’t too bad, actually!
    I cannot wait to see your photos in the Spring!



  • Sandy says:

    Your tulips will be gorgeous. I’m planting white “upward facing” hellebores, aka lenten roses. (our Atlanta GA Trader Joe’s has them right now, 1/2 the price and bigger plants than the plant nursery has) They bloom lots longer than tulips, and after a couple of years they self-sow and you get lots of babies. It’s not cold enough here for the tulips to bloom more than one year.

  • Maria, one of my favorite things about you is your impatience – everything has to be done now. I really appreciate your need for immediate satisfaction. And I appreciate that you have someone to bring you soup to celebrate.

    Here’s hoping we both have a tulip festival this spring!


  • Victoria says:

    You are hilarious and driven! So glad you are so I can see the glorious results in the Spring. But I’m with Teerria, I would have been inside in the kitchen making soup and grilled cheese sandwiches while watching you struggle with your snow gardening. Actually, I would have been doing a bit of both. I was up until 3:00 a.m. trying to figure out the best tree topper for my new red flocked Christmas tree. Go figure!

  • Parisgirl says:

    I have tulip envy! I love them and buy them at the florist but sadly they will not grow here in Australia. I live in the north where today it is 30 something degrees celsius and thunderstorms looming. I noticed yesterday that my potted petunias are on the way out so this weekend I will replace them not with more hot pink but with white. So until I have another North American white christmas that will have to do. Thank you for the inspiration Maria. I wish all of you the very best for the Season and a 2014 that brings all you wish for.

  • franki says:

    This should be SOMETHING to behold!! Good work! franki

  • JoyceB in Atlanta says:

    Maria, thank YOU!! I appreciate all the hard work you do to make your life and blog beautiful. people are right, though, about tulips being a lot of work for only one brief season. White daffodils are a great choice, and come in so many fragrant varieties. I’ve had much luck ordering from White Flower Farm – and no, I do not work for them 🙂 The picture with the white pansies and white tulips is gorgeous. Do not think any digging in the yard is a waste of time and energy. Everything you do to beautify the world is very worthwhile (though I feel for your back). Can’t wait to see results of your hard work.

  • Stacy Naquin says:

    Awe…..I love that blog ending Maria! Can’t wait for the beauties!

  • karen says:

    lol you are one determined gal Maria. But you know, I would have done the same to get it done. Must be type A personality perhaps. I bet it will be beautiful as always and look forward to seeing the picture when they are up.

  • Deborah says:

    I look forward to your precious gift of white tulips. I have attempted to have that beautiful spring pop but it was a constant effort that I just couldn’t keep up with. Now I purchase them on occasion for the house and enjoy them still.
    Keep in mind that your aching back will be forgotten when that flush of white arrives.

  • Janine Arietta says:

    Looking forward to the spring and seeing your dramatic white flowers sprouting proudly.

  • tara dillard says:

    Daffodils are for you and future generations. Deer won’t eat them.

    Tulip planters are for tool bouquet’s on the wall. You know, copying French toile patterns.

    Shovel. Bulbs go in with shovels.

    Make a choice, do you want to work for your landscape or have your landscape work for you? Exactly the same as choosing what you want your day to look like. Gardens are no different.

    Too sweet of you to share the bulb planter story. Next time you use it, hope it’s for the tool bouquet !

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • You are so full of fun!

  • Louise says:

    I am shocked after reading this sentence that “planted 20000 tulips”, i really don’t understand that how it can be possible to grow all these tulips at a same time.

  • mrsben says:

    Maria, sorry to hear you were in pain but focus on the beauty of them come Spring. (“Look at the glass as half full, rather than half empty”.) Can’t conceive doing the same though as at this time of the year, I would be knee-deep in snow! -Brenda-

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