On a recent Saturday, I spent the morning planting bulbs at Lurie Garden along with other volunteers and staff. This was the beginning of a massive effort to revitalize LG’s spring flower display through planting 61,000 bulbs.

Frans Roozen sorts through thousands of bulbs after delivery. Photo by Laura Ekasetya, Director of Lurie Garden.

Now, 61,000 bulbs is a lot of bulbs. For instance, if the average length of the bulbs is 2.5 inches, 61,000 bulbs end to end would stretch about 2.4 miles. Another way to look at it: if planting bulbs takes an average of 1 minute each (which seems pretty fast to me, though I actually have no idea), it would require just over 1,000 person hours to get 61,000 bulbs into the ground.



The new plantings were designed by Jacqueline van der Kloet, who also designed the Lurie Garden’s original bulb plantings in 2006. Here’s just a small part of Jacqeline’s design for this year.

Jacqueline and Frans inspect a corner of the Lurie Garden. Photo by Lurie Garden.

Jacqueline and her colleague Frans Roozen came all the way from Holland to oversee the planting.

Photo by Laura Ekasetya.

Stems of perennials and grasses were tied together to give a clearer view of the ground. The Lurie Garden always looks like it is bursting with leaves and flowers, so it was odd to see the open space between the crowns of the plants.

Photo by Jackie Jasperson

Jacqueline’s design style looks natural but is carefully thought through. She mixes specific varieties to create the effect she has in mind. If you want to know more about how she mixes bulb varieties, you should read her book, Colour Your Garden.

Photo by Laura Ekasetya

The weather was chilly on the day I helped out. We were divided into groups and assigned to a specific area of the garden. To create a more informal look, we were instructed to scatter handfuls of bulbs from our own bucket in particular areas, then plant them more or less where they lay.

Photo by Peter Slothower

Over the course of the project, over 50 volunteers helped to get the job done. They were a diverse bunch in age (about half were teens) and background. This was a reflection of how Lurie Garden staff connects with communities all over the city.

Photo by Peter Slothower

I have to admit I was a little embarrassed by the fact that I can’t kneel for long periods of time, and always end up lying on my side while planting bulbs. This is something I don’t give a thought to when working at home, but here it felt a bit conspicuous.

So I’ll bet you are wondering: which bulbs were they planting? Well, wonder no more, as LG Director Laura Ekasatya was nice enough to provide me with a list. Here it is:

Hybrid Tulips

  • ‘Ballade’
  • ‘Don Quichotte’
  • ‘Purissima’
  • ‘Queen of Night’
  • ‘Spring Green’
  • ‘Flaming Spring Green’
  • ‘Maureen’

Species Tulips

  • T. turkestanica
  • T. urumiensis
  • T. bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’
  • T. humilis violacea ‘Black Base’
  • T. hageri ‘Splendens’
lurie garden may 5
White tulips at the Lurie Garden in May, 2014. Imagine what next year will bring.


  • ‘W.P. Milner’
  • ‘Sailboat’
  • ‘Thalia’


  • F. pallidiflora
  • F. persica
  • F. persica ‘Ivory Bells’

Small Bulbs and Other

  • Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Violet Beauty’
  • Chionoxoxa sardensis
  • Galanthus elwesii
  • Scilla mischtschenkoana
  • Anemone blanda
  • Camassia leichtlinii ‘Alba’

Imagine the floral explosion all this will create next spring! I’ll do my best to cover it on this blog – but it would be better if you visited the Lurie Garden yourself.




30 Comments on “Lurie Garden’s Bulb Bonanza”

  1. I just love those white tulips up against the city sky… there is something extra special about community gardens in big cities. It is great to see such a lot of volunteers of all ages… as you say it just goes to show the importance of the Lurie Gardens to the community.

  2. Amazing, both in scope and in scape! Congratulations on being part of such a wonderful gift to those who will gape next year. As to lying on your side, I can empathize a bit, but gardeners are nothing if not pragmatic: whatever works — and that was most certainly work!

  3. The daffodil called ‘Sailboat’ certainly caught my attention. When I saw a photo of it in bloom, I thought, “Maybe I could try some of those in a pot.” Or not. Every site I’ve looked at so far says “not in stock.” It must really be a beauty. I did find that there’s a lemon Sailboat that’s a knockout, too. I’m still undecided, but I just might.

      • ‘Maureen’ used to be the cheap and common white tulip. People tend to prefer fancier and more expensive cultivars. I think that most of the fancier types look rather strange, or are not as white. I might eventually grow some ‘Maureen’ on a small scale in my own garden, just because they are still my favorite, but they are not really the best for landscapes. White is not the best color for tulips. They look like piked eggs.

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