Tons and Tons of Bulbs at Chicago Botanic Garden

This is no small task

Sue Roman, produced by Antonio Reis

Ever wondered who plants all those bulbs that pop up at your favorite botanical garden each spring? See how this garden handles this herculean task in this video.

Every year, there are about 160,000 bulbs planted at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The bulbs at this garden are used primarily in three ways:

1. As forced bulbs, which are placed into containers and pots. To learn how to force bulbs early, read this article by Tovah Martin.

Winter is wonderful—it just doesn’t need to linger so long. During the depths of the season, I find myself thirsting for something to lift my spirits in a green sort of way. Actually, a little dose of color wouldn’t be bad, either.

That’s where forcing spring bulbs comes in. You’ve probably seen the phenomenon in the supermarket: During February or March—somewhere between the vegetables and the houseplants—you can usually find a few pots of token pearly white tulips and a ‘Tête-à-Tête’ daffodil or two. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many spring bulbs are more thrilling than those old standbys in the florist aisle.

To force spring bulbs, all you need is a little planning and a cool place to store them. You wouldn’t want to open my refrigerator in January because there’s scant space for anything but a few edible essentials; bulbs take up the lion’s share of the space from Thanksgiving to February. Read more.

2. Permanent bulbs that are added to the garden’s display.

3. Annual bulbs that are put into the ground, then taken out and changed every year.

Lots of help is needed to get all 160,000 bulbs into the ground during Autumn in a timely manner.

Once the bulbs have been delivered to the garden, the horticulture specialists are notified. Then, the horticulturalists determine the best time to place the bulbs in the ground. This depends on weather patterns each year.

Depending on the specific area of the garden, some bulbs are placed in a more or less formal and structured way.

First, bulbs are laid out on top of the ground. Then comes the digging and planting. Tens of thousands of bulbs can get planted every day at the garden. To learn how to plant bulbs, watch our video.

To learn more about the Chicago Botanic Garden, visit their website.

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