Bath time for tulips!

During the 2nd World War, a baby was born. This was in the days  pre central heating and  pre plastic, when babies were bathed in a tin bath in front of the fire. Looking at it now, I can’t believe that I used to fit in there!  What does one do with an obsolete tin bath that has been hanging around various garages for all that time –  fill it with tulips of course!!  First of all though, drainage holes are needed.

Drilling holes

Drainage is essential for the bulbs, they don’t like my heavy clay and every year I have lost goodness knows how many tulips. I asked the undergardener to drill them on the side of the bath to stop the worms from coming up into the compost, which they would do if the holes were in the base.


After a search we found these pieces of polystyrene which we decided  would be enough for the bottom layer of drainage.

Bottom layer

When broken up they make a good layer, covering the drainage holes.


A layer of gravel for added drainage and to fill in any gaps.

Tulip bulbs

These are my bulbs, they are either plain purple, or purple with a white fringed edge or purple with white stripes or white with purple edges, what’s the betting at least one turns out to be another colour?!


In they all go, only just had room for them all on a layer of organic, peat free compost.

Compost and perlite

The bath was then filled up to the top with the compost mixed with perlite to aid drainage so that the rainwater would just run through over the course of this winter.

Winter pansies

It has been finished off with some winter pansies for something to look at over the dark winters days as well as trying to disguise the bulbs from the squirrels, voles and mice which like to eat them. The pansies will be moved as soon as the tulips start to show through, so that they have plenty of room. I think the old war time tin bath looks a lot better now and hopefully will be even better at tulip time. Lilies will be grown in pots to replace the tulips when the time comes, or that is the idea at the moment. The old tin bath has been recycled at last, just took me rather a long time to get round to it!!


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25 Responses to Bath time for tulips!

  1. Jason says:

    Brilliant! I also planted tulips in containers, though I have no tin bathtubs.

  2. I have a full size tin bath at the Priory and have never been too sure what to do with it. You’ve set me thinking ……

  3. Great piece of re-purposing, should look amazing – hope you haven’t got any stray yellows or oranges in there to spoil the coordination…

    • Pauline says:

      Janet, I hope so too, but you never know!! Should look nice if everything goes to plan, I will now just have to decide what to plant to follow on.

  4. Christina says:

    Great idea, it will be great, look forward to spring and seeing it full of flower! Christina

    • Pauline says:

      I just hope Christina that the furry animals in the garden leave it alone, no digging so far thank goodness. One year I put tulips in pots up on the balcony, but they were all dug up and eaten!

  5. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    Looking forward to seeing photos of it in spring 🙂
    Really need to get the last of mine planted! Some Camassia and Bluebells. Just not so sure where…………………..

  6. pbmgarden says:

    Nice that your container has this great background story Pauline.

    • Pauline says:

      PBM, I’ve been waiting to use it for a long time, it has moved from house to house, going from one garage to another, at last it has a second life!

  7. Cathy says:

    The very same bath ….. how lovely to have that history. It will be lovely with all the tulips, Pauline, so well done for getting on with that planting. We picked up some galvanised baths and buckets at an auction once as they were selling for next to nothing, but they then sat in the shed for so long that we disposed of them. Can’t believe I did that! Well done for getting on with all that planting too.

    • Pauline says:

      Cathy, what a coincidence that you bought some old baths too and then did what my parents and I had done, put them away and not done anything with them! I’m looking at everything in the garage with new eyes now!!

  8. kininvie says:

    That polystyrene for drainage is a brilliant idea, as I never know what to do with the stuff! I have my grandfather’s tin campaign bath, which went through India strapped to a mule. It comes with a lid, so you can pack your socks in it when not using it. Its new purpose is to be used for dooking for apples at Halloween parties. I disagree with you over peat-free compost. Scotland has millions of tons of peat, which is of no use to anyone, and the more of it you can use on your garden, the better.

    • Pauline says:

      Kininvie, your grandfather’s campaign bath has such a lot of history behind it and it’s good that it has a new use today. We seem to have used so much polystyrene in pots over the years, we were hard pushed to find the small amount that we did, it also saves on the amount of compost needed!

  9. Anna says:

    Great minds think alike but in my case I’m using an IKEA tin container out circa late 80s/early 90s to plant some tulips in 🙂 Those sideways drainage holes are a most ingenious idea. Pauline. Those pansies will hopefully fox the squirrels – might do something similar as I do not think I have a piece of chicken wire large enough to provide protection against visiting marauders.

    • Pauline says:

      Anna, I agree that most things can be recycled to give them a second life, I wonder what else I can find lurking in the garage! As you say it would take a large piece of chicken wire to cover the bath against squirrels, but then voles and mice can still get through as I found out one year when I kept the pots covered in the greenhouse!

  10. wellywoman says:

    Spent a Sunday a few weekends ago planting up 2 tin baths with tulips. They had herbs in them but the ground has been so wet I didn’t think I would get the last of my tulips in so decided to put the herbs in plastic pots in the greenhouse over winter and fill the baths with my tulips. They make such lovely containers, much nicer than plastic. looking forward to seeing your photos of them in spring.

    • Pauline says:

      Fantastic WW, will look forward to your photos too! I agree, they are so much nicer than plastic, must go and have another search of the garage to see what else I can find!

  11. Alberto says:

    I have planted narcissus last year on a big tin bucket. The effect is very nice! Now I have a bamboo growing there, it must be kept under surveillance! 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      Alberto. the narcissus must have looked lovely, hope my tulips do as well! Some Bamboos are dreadful spreaders, just as well you have it contained!!

  12. I’ve done the same with a dolly tub I inherited with the house – it looks fantastic when it’s bursting with colourful tulips. Didn’t need to drill holes however, as the bottom has rusted through. In my more intact small tub, salvaged from a skip, I’ve made a mini water garden where a juncus happily thrives with its twirly whirly stems. I love tinware!!

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Carole, thanks for stopping by, what a coincidence, we have done the same! Far better to have these items recycled than thown out. Love the sound of your water garden, sounds fantastic.
      Good idea, multi layering with your tulips, I knew I had to leave room for the winter pansies to try and keep the wildlife away!

  13. When I plant my (deep) dolly tub, I put the bulbs in in layers, like a lasagne. Put the taller ones in the bottom layer and the shorter ones nearer the top – they interweave and bulk out the planting beautifully.

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