One of the best ways to draw children into the rhythm of the seasons is through the use of flowers. Different flowers bloom at different times and it can be fun and exciting to be the one to find the first “whatever” flower of the season. Bulbs are great for this. They are easy to grow and bloom right on time. They are especially nice during the late-winter/early-spring months when they can serve as harbingers of the warmer months to come. If you would like to plant bulbs that frequently appear in children’s literature and will give your garden some color from early spring through the fall, an easy sequence looks like this:
- Snow drop (may be referred to as “galanthus”, which is the genus and includes several similar-looking flowers)
- Crocus, spring (there are fall crocuses also, but this would not be the appropriate time to plant those)
- Daffodil (may be referred to as “narcissus”, which is the genus, named after Narcissus of the Greek myths who wasted away while he admired his reflection in a pool of water)
- Tulip (you can get several breeds of tulips, which can bloom early spring, mid spring, late spring, and early summer)
Though not common in children’s literature, I find that children really are attracted to muscari flowers, which bloom in the spring (and make excellent hair/sunglass decorations). A popular and personal favorite muscari combination is “blueberries and cream”, which refers to a combination of blue/purple muscari and ivory tulips.
Of course, there are many, many, many other types of bulbs, all wonderful in their own way, but this is a list of the ones that I find appear most frequently in western children’s literature, making it easier to incorporate them into Waldorf lessons. In regards to planting bulbs, I think they are lot easier to plant than some people make them out to be, especially for these common and hardy bulbs. One time a lady told me that she and her brother had planted hundreds of bulbs upside down and that each and every one of them sent their roots upwards and their flowers downwards. I have experimented with this many times and never been able to get a bulb to bloom upside down. I also question the veracity of this story, as I think Mother Nature is a bit smarter than that and that plants naturally gravitate towards the sun, while roots naturally gravitate towards the soil. I could see where a bulb might not be able to right itself and come up properly, but to come up completely upside-down doesn’t seem possible….Also, other people, including some very famous gardening personalities, make a big fuss about how deep you should plant the bulbs. There are even special bulb planting trowels with depth gauges on them. Well, I’ve been growing bulbs very successfully for over a decade now, and I don’t find the planting depth to be as big a deal as people make it out to be. I’ve experimented and found that it is far better to err of the side of planting the bulb to shallow, than to plant it too deep. If you plant it too deep, it simply will rot away. If you don’t plant it deep enough, it could be exposed by weather, which some of mine have been and yet have still gone on to produce fine and hearty plants, which I then just tossed some extra soil on the roots. The single biggest concern, however, about not planting your bulbs deep enough is that a lot of animals love to munch on bulbs during the winter and will dig them up if they can smell them. Some animals are persistent enough, that you simply cannot bury the bulbs deep enough. In such cases, your best bet is to plant a gazillion bulbs in hopes that the animals won’t get all of them (or use some sort of animal deterrent).
In regards to spacing between bulbs, I find they look prettier if you space them much closer to each other than the directions recommend. I plant them in clusters, very close together.
Finally, if you live in a warmer climate… Well, that makes things much more complicated. You have two options that I am aware of. You can wait until spring and buy pre-cooled bulbs, meaning that someone manually put the bulb through the freezing process Mother Nature intended it to go through. You can plant these bulbs in the spring and they will bloom for that season. Then come the fall, say good-bye, because if you don’t do anything more, they most likely will not bloom again. Your second option, if you grew bulbs this last spring would be to dig up all your bulbs and put them in your freezer yourself, then replant them in the spring. (A third option, and the option I think is the best, would be to move to a location that has four seasons, so you can grow bulbs the way Mother Nature intended them to be grown, but that’s just me…. having grown up in San Diego, I’m a four season fanatic.)
Regardless of when you plant your bulbs, be sure to have your budding botanist with you, as kids really love digging holes (at least for the first couple of holes, at which point, they get distracted). Younger children will have a hard time with understanding that the bulbs they plant today will bloom next spring or that the bulbs they planted six months ago are today’s flowers, but growing bulbs is a good way of helping them to experience the rhythm of the seasons and to understand that all things happen in their own time.
Now, please join me in sharing that nature experiences that you’ve had with your children and feel free to grab my button.