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The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle

The Sunny Bank I was very excited to get the opportunity to visit this garden because I've heard so much about it. It did not disappoint. The garden was created by Elisabeth Carey Miller and her husband Pendleton who purchased the house in 1948. Mrs. Miller was a self-taught gardener who used her artistic skills (she majored in Art History) to create the stunning garden which features a dense canopy of native conifers. She became a plant collector and tracked down unusual specimens and was known as a well-respected plantswoman in the horticultural community. The front entrance Visiting this garden is not exactly easy. It is situated in a restricted community and there is a limit to the number of visitors per year. You must make an appointment on the website at designated times or you can find a tour group like I did. The address isn't listed either although even if you had it, you would have to get past the security guard at the gate to the neighborhood. I think if I lived in

Planting tulips

I had the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and it turned out to be really nice. We had a wet weekend, 2 1/2 inches according to the rain gauge, so everything was still very damp. The sun was out today and temperatures were in the mid 50s.

Tulips are best planted earlier than this (November or December are the best months) but I never got around to it and it was too cold to get out during the winter break. So, better late than never. I think they will probably be okay. Actually, it has been years since I've planted tulips. I planted them often in my early garden days but I learned quickly that they usually don't come back and have to be treated like annuals. There is one variety, the beautiful solid white "Maureen", that has survived many years in our garden. I saw this bag of tulips at Sam's a few months ago and the price wasn't bad ($14 for a bag of 100). They are described as "Mixed Colors" - don't you love those generic descriptions?

I stored the tulip bulbs in a drawer in the refrigerator. This gives them a pre-chilling period which usually helps since our winter temperatures are often erratic. Storing bulbs this way is perfectly fine, just don't keep them in the refrigerator with fruit because they emit some type of gas that is harmful to the bulbs.

I wanted to plant the tulips in front of the little fence that encloses the vegetable garden. This area is a mess and I've yet to come up with a successful plan for it. The planting space between the fence and the driveway is very narrow. I've tried daylilies and iris with little success.

First, I did a little cleaning up. I removed the weeds and all the daylilies and iris. You can see that the fence also needs some help. It is in need of a good paint job but it probably needs to be totally replaced. There are only a few panels of fencing so this might be an inexpensive project before spring arrives.

Make sure the bulbs are firm - squeeze them softly to be sure and discard any that are soft. Tulip bulbs should be planted about 6 inches deep with the tip pointing up. A little bone meal can be added to the planting hole but I confess I rarely do this. Carefully cover the bulbs with soil and mulch.

After a few hours, I finished the project and had all 100 bulbs planted. I also added some leftovers to containers. In a few months, we should have a nice row of tulips along the fence. Then I'll have to decide what to plant there next!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. I am in the same boat you are. My sister found a killer deal on bulbs in December (75% off) so I planted a bunch of them then (I probably had 100 or so to start with). I am now down to a bag of 20 but I feel guilty about not having those planted yet. I'm planning to get those in the ground this week also. We'll compare notes!

  2. You will just love those mixed up tulips this spring. I hope they do just fine. How nice that you can get into the garden and do some work. I looked out the window into my garden today. That is as close as I got to doing anything other than making lists of what needs to be done.

  3. Can't wait to see your results. I planted 300 tulip bulbs in the fall, my first time with such a large volume. Two-thirds of them went into a large ivy bed that I cleared a year ago and that has been the dogs' playground. Don't know what I'll do there when the tulips fade! And I hate to think that they may last only one year after all that work, but we'll see what happens.

  4. I have been waiting for my fellow manager at work to drop the price on her bulbs to 50%, which she did last week. I promptly bought a variety of narcissus, alliums, corcus and galianthus (I don't normally do tulips). The weather here Fri and Sat was so nice compared to what we have been experiencing, perfect for planting. I love it when things come together. I look forward to seeing your spring show.

  5. Phillip, thank you so much for all the info about planting tulips, is just great and I´ll follow them when is the time here in Chile.
    Maria Cecilia

  6. I am very jealous that you can grow tulips there! I will just have to watch yours grow and bloom with envy! You were busy planting a 100 of them! Beautiful day to be outside today!

  7. Today was a gorgeous day for working outside. Gives me spring fever! Usually by February I'm outside cleaning up and cutting back plants so it won't be long!

  8. oh I hope your tulips come up OK, they'll liven up that area nicely. I planted some Darwin Hybrids about 3 yrs ago and they've come back every year, but I wonder if our recent freeze has finally done them in.

    I discovered some asiatic lily bulbs in my fridge drawer that I didn't have time to plant last spring - I forgot I had put them there (was supposed to be very temporary)! Do you think they'd be still good to plant this spring? There are no fruit, but onions and potatoes in the same drawer as the bulbs.

  9. The thought of planting that many tulips makes my head spin! I do hope they all come up for you. Yes, those narrow spaces, especially close to a driveway, are very difficult. I'm sure you'll find just the right thing soon.
    p.s. We also had a nice day but the ground was so soggy!

  10. Hi Phillip~~ First, Pamela Harper's Time Tested Plants is one of my favorites.

    I like your fence area. Lots of possibilities. I hope to see photos of your blooming tulips.

  11. Hi Phillip~~ The software I used for my garden plan is very simple with a lot of limitations. There are many other great programs if you Google you'll find them. Garden Planner is the name of what I'm using. Go to:

    This will get you started. I'll be interested to hear what you think. Grace

  12. Hi Phillip

    I reckon your tulips will be just fine.

    The usual mistake is to plant them too early when the soil temp. is too high and they kick start into growth early.

    I love tulips in pots. Should look really stunning.

    That's a good price for a hundred bulbs. Things are more expensive over here.

  13. That is going to be gorgeous, Phillip! What a nice welcome with the fence lined with tulips of mixed colors. That was a good price too. :-)

  14. Great price for those bulbs! I've passed on tulips as I've worried about them being more annuals. Interested to see how yours fare.

    What did you do with the daylillies? I have a love-hate relationship with mine. Love that nothing kills them- hate that they start out as just lumps of green for such a long time and the blooms are rather short-lived.

  15. I was really in the mood to add tulips last fall and could hardly find any. Ended up with 3 or 4 packages of 12.

  16. Phillip, Since I am always late I love that motto too! I look forward to seeing your blooms and maybe some violas or sweet alyssum, iberis or forget me nots would look sweet with these. I keep thinking of your land you might move to? It is snowing out and I see you planting... lucky you! ;>)

  17. Phillip, I am sure that they will be absolutely beautiful along your fence.

    I am also glad that by chance, you did not cut into them and use them as if they were onions, while they were in the fridge. That is something I'd do, for sure!

    Be sure to re-post their progress...

  18. Thanks for your comment on my blog, Phillip! I inspected my lily bulbs more closely and they're pretty dry, I doubt there's a beating heart in them. Oh well, my fault for forgetting about them - will be more careful next time.

  19. I can’t imagine unfrozen earth. Ours is under more than a foot of snow, but then again you had your taste of winter too. I’m looking forward to watching those tulips bloom on your blog. Thanks for the planting tips.

    I love the name of your friend's new blog.

  20. Philip,
    I am yet another jealous northern gardener. Lucky you to be in the garden at this time of year!! Last fall, I decided to try planting some tulip bulbs deep down in my lettuce beds for spring cutting. I look forward to bringing in bouquets this spring. And I anticipate seeing yours in bloom!!

  21. The gas emitted by ripening fruit is ethylene (C2H4) and is a strong plant hormone. Useful if you have some hard green bananas: stick them in a paper bag with another, riper banana or apple.

  22. Once again I want to thank you for your help in the past. I just shared a comment you posted on blog last year. SINCE THEN I have been able to share more seed info with local garden clubs after being ask to share my research with them.

    IF it weren't for wonderful garden support like you in the beginning I would never have been able to inspire others. THANK YOU PHILIP!

  23. 100 bulbs--wow, that should be a real show-stopper.

    I like the little picket fence. If you replace it, will it be another picket-style?

  24. What a treat it will be when the photos go up, Philip! You'll have a big payoff in petals ;-]

    Not many tulips down here but I saw more than my share when we lived near a park in Illinois that had an enormous tulip display each spring.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


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