Courtesy of Jeanne Grace

With the help of Prof. Bill Miller's Dutch bulb-planting machine, the Ithaca Garden Club and Ithaca Children's Garden collaborated to plant 50,000 bulbs along the Cayuga Waterfront Trail.

October 17, 2022

50,000 Daffodil Bulbs Planted Along Cayuga Waterfront Trail

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Ithaca Garden Club and Ithaca Children’s Garden came together on Thursday to plant 50,000 daffodil bulbs along the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. 

The effort, dubbed “Daff-a-Dazzle” by the Ithaca Garden Club, began three years ago when the club brought forth a vision of blooming flowers lining the trail. The most recent planting was the third planting event, part of the five-year planting plan.

“The end product would be to make sure that we have flowering bulbs along the Waterfront Trail from beginning to end,” Ithaca City Forester Jeanne Grace said. “We’re focusing a lot at Cass Park right now, but there’s spaces we have to fill at Stewart Park as well.”

While the city is working with the Ithaca Garden Club to help organize the project, all the funding comes from the club directly. The recent purchasing of 50,000 bulbs cost around $15,000, most of which the club fundraised themselves. 

The Garden Club also takes donations from the public, some of which were brought in by scannable QR codes placed around the trail.

The city’s goal in supporting this project is to brighten up the community, especially as the weather transitions from winter to spring.

“It’s so uplifting and cheerful after a long gray and cold winter to have all these bright, cheery yellow and orange flowers coming right out of the lawn,” Grace said. 

The club chose daffodils for a number of reasons, including their reliable sprouting each season and the fact that deer, a common problem for flora in the area, don’t eat them. 

The event lasted just over two hours and was attended by at least a dozen volunteers and club members, some of whom were Cornell University students working under the guidance of Prof. Bill Miller, integrative plant science.

Miller assisted with the planting of the bulbs through the use of a Dutch planting machine. 

“This machine plants the bulbs under the grass,” Miller said. “It’s pulled along by a tractor and it cuts the sod, lifts the sod up and then the bulbs drugs under the ground. As the machine goes forward, the sod comes back down and it gets pressed into place by wheels in the back.” 

The machine has successfully transformed a typically labor-intensive process into one that only requires people to reload bulbs into the bed. 

Miller estimates that there are only a handful of these machines in America — his was a gift from a Dutch bulb export company that he has been working with for nearly 25 years. Miller was a graduate student at Cornell during the ‘80s and returned to work at Cornell as a professor.

“I got my research program going when I came here again, in 1998, and that was a program involving flower bulbs,” Miller said. “We just stopped it this summer after 24 years, but we have been working with the Dutch flower bulb export industry on flower bulb usage in North America and Canada, mostly for greenhouse production.”

And six years ago, the company sent him the bulb planting machine, which has proven to be extremely beneficial to the Ithaca community. Miller plans to continue using  his machine for community-based projects. 

“The city is looking to raise money and I think the garden club wants to raise money, and you know, we can keep doing this,” Miller said. “There’s all kinds of ways to get involved.”