The Art of Spring Bulb Displays

Spring is season of promise. Cherry trees and magnolias are in full bloom, baby lambs and goats frolic in green pastures, and our favorite spring bulbs put on their annual display in a rainbow of colors. I recently enjoyed a visit to a client's garden that was a true delight with hundreds of daffodils, species tulips, and grape hyacinths creating an intricate carpet that the entire neighborhood could enjoy as they strolled by. In my own garden I have to outwit both deer and rabbits, so my spring bulb selection is limited to daffodils, English bluebells, wind anemones, and winter aconite (although I suspect the rabbits are responsible for the dwindling numbers of the latter). I therefore especially appreciate truly abundant displays in private or public gardens, and few do this better than Filoli Garden in San Francisco. I was fortunate to visit there in 2013 and spent several hours enjoying both the remarkable tulip displays and warm sunshine.

Potted Displays

The best public gardens offer ideas for the home gardener, regardless of how large or small their space might be. These simple, terracotta pots had been filled with tulips  and other spring bulbs that were then  brought out for display as each variety reached its peak.  That is certainly something even I could do, perhaps growing them initially within the confines of my protected vegetable garden. Terracotta wouldn't survive Seattle winters but I like the idea of using one consistent pot color and style – perhaps some of the faux terracotta might work and be frost resistant?  Perhaps a succession of colors in different pots? Maybe I can just plant them in black nursery pots and slip these inside my decorative pots when the moment is right?

At Filoli the pots were clustered together on steps, in doorways, around statuary and used to line pathways, all ideas we can re-create in our homes.

Landscape Displays

Where tulips were planted in the ground they were corralled by manicured boxwood hedges, vibrant under the dappled canopy of the flowering cherry trees. Every garden had its own color scheme which the tulip displays highlighted. This simple design is so much more dramatic than a mix of colors might have been. Perhaps you might focus on a single color in your front garden that echoes or complements the color of your door, whereas in the back  there might be an opportunity to introduce a new color scheme. Even if you didn't want to limit yourself to just one color perhaps you could plant blocks of individual colors rather than a random assortment throughout the space? Abundance was key to the display at Filoli too. Planting a soldierly row of 10 bulbs, or even a single cluster of 10 isn't nearly so striking as a mass planting of 100 or more. Just because the packets you see in the stores contain 10 bulbs doesn't means that's all you should plant. Consider planning and ordering ahead from a bulb grower. You can often get great "early bird" deals and can order in bulk at considerable savings. For bulk daffodils and many other bulbs I order from Brent & Becky's Bulbs in Virginia (such a lovely couple too!) For bulk tulips I would look at one of the specialty growers; do a quick online search for "bulk tulip bulbs".

Final Thoughts

The other thing I learned? It's OK to sit once in a while and simply enjoy them.

Subscribe to Receive Blog Posts

Gardening inspiration delivered right to your inbox from Le Jardinet

This is an updated post, originally published in March 2013.

Easy, Budget-Conscious Containers

Apr 14 2020

When it comes to gardening, I'm nothing if not tenacious (although my husband calls it "stubborn…."), and right now that quality is coming in especially handy. Usually at this time of year I'd be anticipating leisurely visits to my favorite nurseries to carefully select an exciting array of shrubs, perennials, annuals, tropicals, and edibles to…
Read More

Finding Joy in the Little Things

Mar 31 2020

A box of children's board books, all carefully cleaned and placed in a pretty box. A set of dumb bells delivered to my porch by the owner of my local gym. An online link to fun activities for toddlers from a friend in Australia. The wave of a stranger as they pass (at a distance)…
Read More

Choosing Hope

Mar 17 2020

The world seems a different place than it did a week ago doesn't it? My community is like a ghost town as stores, schools, churches, the library, gym, restaurants, and bars have been mandated to close with minor exceptions. I have had multiple speaking events either cancel or reschedule and perhaps most heartbreaking of all…
Read More

Big Ideas for Balcony-Sized Spaces

Mar 3 2020

It's Showtime here in Seattle! The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is always a seasonal highlight for garden lovers and dreamers with so many ideas to help you make the most of your space no matter how large or small. The City Living display features ten patio gardens, each just 6' x 12', typical of…
Read More

Posies of Memories

Feb 18 2020

Endless rain and grey skies had me scurrying outside a few days ago during a rare lull in the storms to see if I even had a garden left or if it had all washed away! As it turned out I discovered far more than just flowers. Not only were the hellebores in full bloom…
Read More

Nature into Art – Book Review & Giveaway!

Feb 4 2020

Inspired by English gardens yet unapologetically re-envisioned to suit the American climate and re-worked to snub conventional garden design "rules", Wave Hill is an extraordinary garden by any standards. Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill by Thomas Christopher (Timber Press, 2019) not only tells the story, it also inspires gardeners with plant information,…
Read More

Bark, Buds, Berries, & Blooms: Winter Snapshots from Virginia

Jan 21 2020

After a red-eye flight across the country and barely two hours of sleep, what would YOU do to recover? Yup – head out to a garden of course! And that's exactly what I did when I arrived in Norfolk, Virginia Beach last Sunday, albeit via Starbucks (caffeine was a pre-requisite after all). I was in…
Read More

New Year – New Shrubs!

Jan 7 2020

It's cold, wet, and windy here in Seattle today – but that doesn't stop me dreaming about warmer days in the garden and planning the inevitable revisions. Since I suspect you're doing a little armchair gardening too,  here are some new shrubs I've come across that you might like to consider. Shrubs are the mainstay…
Read More

From My Garden to Yours

Dec 24 2019

I know that the Holiday season can be truly challenging for many; a poignant reminder of those we have lost, worries about the future, job uncertainties and more. In such circumstances it can be hard to find joy and celebrate the season. While I don't have all the answers, I can tell you that time…
Read More

The Gift of Memories

Dec 10 2019

  It's so easy to get swept along in the frenzy of shopping malls, tinsel and wrapping paper. Trying to find the perfect gift for each friend and family member can become an exhausting challenge rather than a heartfelt expression. Yet there may be a few people on your list who really don't need another…
Read More

Welcome to My Garden Adventures


I'm a serious plant-aholic. In other words I'm usually covered in a layer or two of soil, I drive everywhere with a large tarp for impromptu plant purchases and I'm truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening.

Buy My Books Here!



Container Gardening Course

Enter KCHAPMAN20 to get 20% off

Architecture, interior design, and more ∨

Use the help of top home decorators to select matching bedside tables and a new lamp shade for your own bedroom design.
Collect and share photos of bathroom tile, bathroom vanities, shower curtains and bathroom mirrors to create your perfect home decorating style.

TV Interview