Planting Bulbs With Henriette

On Friday, October 23, 2015, about 1,500 bulbs were planted in memory of Henriette Suhr. The weather was perfect for this project – sunny with a seasonal chill. In clear view of the hills blazing fall’s russet and ochre hues, about a dozen of us planted what will be a most splendid sight next spring. Hundreds of Chappaqua commuters will be treated to the show.
To keep it simple, a variety of daffodils, scillas, crocuses and snowdrops were chosen.

As we planted, we exchanged happy memories of Henriette. She brought together so many of us and it was only right that here too, in the midst of gardening, we were reconnecting and strengthening our friendships. It is funny how a daunting task can be made easy when many happy hearts and willing hands come together. And so the job got done.

As I planted, took photos and chatted, it occurred to me that here was a perfect lesson – Bulb Planting 101. If one was interested in putting down a bed of bulbs for the first time, this was the ideal demonstration. In creating her own gardens at Rocky Hills, Henriette taught so many. Educating on horticulture, the environment and good design, she led by example. Now, once again, she was providing yet another learning opportunity. On my part, it was only right that I spread her message that we must always care for the environment with sensitivity and grace.

So here goes the pictorial tutorial:

1. The selected site was just a typical grassy area. So, in preparation, the sod was removed and the area was dug to the depth required by the large daffodil bulbs. Remember, depth is three times the size of the bulb.

2. To create a natural, informal look, the different daffodils were mixed up and placed in no particular pattern in the trench. Kept about 5 to 8 inches apart, the bed will look thickly planted.



Scott Medbury, director of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens plants with volunteer and my dear friend Toni Kelly.

Scott Medbury, director of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens plants with volunteer and my dear friend Toni Kelly.

3. These large bulbs were then covered with soil. The depth was thus raised to be correct for the smaller bulbs.


4. Again, the minor bulbs were mixed and planted at random.


5. The remaining soil covered all the bulbs and filled up the bed.


Fred oversees the whole operation

Fred oversees the entire operation

6. The whole bed was mulched with shredded cedar.

7. Finally, an evergreen ground cover of vinca/creeping myrtle was planted. The vinca will mark the bed and provide year-round definition. Its mauve-blue flowers will add an additional splash in spring.



This rock, brought in from Rocky Hills, will bear a plaque dedicated to Henriette.

This rock, brought in from Rocky Hills, will bear a plaque dedicated to Henriette.

8. The bed will be kept watered till the weather turns really cold. That ought to allow the ground cover to settle in nicely before the winter.

Part of the planting team,

Part of the planting team,

I can’t wait for spring! This bed should look lovely. I do believe Henriette would approve. I felt her presence the whole time we planted – as though she was gently guiding us along.
Once again dear friend, I salute you. You are deeply missed.

(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

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3 thoughts on “Planting Bulbs With Henriette

  1. This was a wonderful effort and one I’m sure residents will enjoy for years. Thanks for taking part, and for the tutorial–I’ve always wondered how to mix ground cover planting with mulching. T

    • Thanks Teresa. A note about mulching. In general, mulching is done after all the plants are in. But, in this case, the vinca plants were small and risked getting smothered if the mulch was done after planting. So the decision to switch the sequence was made.

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