When I was a kid, we got a hilarious annual Christmas letter from Great Aunt Pauline-a four-page psychotic recitation of the tragedies that had befallen people in her little town. My brother usually read it aloud while we hooted ourselves sick. One year when the letter's P.S. read: "Oh, Marge died, and Harry fell in a hole," my mother managed to choke out, "THROW IN SOME BULBS!" which was so unlike her that we practically had to be revived.
Mom was right, you know-growing daffodils, tulips, iris, lilies and other perennially blooming flowers from bulbs is almost as easy as throwing them in after Harry. And-this is the best thing-you plant bulbs in fall, forget where you put them or even IF you put them, and one day in spring when you are muttering crankily to yourself "gol-dang income taxes," they go SPROING and give you a grin. The sunny faces of daffodils can cheer up even Eeyore.
Fair warning: I am about to give you yet another way to piss away time on the Internet. I know; you already read 11 blogs, play two games of FreeCell, read three major news sites and have a daily romp through eBay. You have to delete spam and explain to your nephew Gerald, again, that breaking a chain e-mail will not really summon the devil, but this new avenue of virtual procrastinating is more fun than any of that: flower bulb online catalogs. Sexy, lurid photographs of the blooms of tomorrow ordered on the credit card of today will fill your screen with varieties to make you swoon. Try this: www.dutchgardens.com and take a look at "Galactic Star Daffodil," a perfect new variety for early spring bloom. For tulips, see www.tulipworld.com and their list of top-10 easy-to-grow varieties. Look for additional Web sites at the end of this article.
Flower bulbs can play tricks on you because they tend to grow and bloom even if you do everything backward-for a year. Then they produce weeny little gray blooms and you have to start up your Prozac again. For gorgeous blooms from bulbs, say this in a caveman voice: "Make nice dirt. Dig hole. Put bulb. Put nice dirt. Ugh." Nuances like hole depth, water and bulb food are usually on the packet of bulbs, or are easily found at www.GardenWeb.com.
But seriously, your dirt has to be primo, man. You can't ignore it and hope for the best-as is my standard method for so many of life's little challenges. The trick is to add organic matter such as peat moss, dead leaves, compost or cow poo and mix it up until the soil is loose and loamy. Ideally, you add missing ingredients to an unplanted flower bed and dig them in a foot or two deep. But since you already have stuff planted in your beds, generously dump whatever you're adding around your plants, then use a hoe or a small shovel to dig and mix. (Be careful not to damage the roots, and rinse off your plants afterward.) Most of us in Boise have heavy clay soil-mine is so dense you could throw pottery from it-and when it packs down, bulbs have a struggle to grow up through it.
Brown-thumb crimes of bulb gardening are few but deeply felonious. City code S(to)P:it/3.2nO/w expressly forbids the planting of bulbs in single file along a pathway so that you have a unnatural row of force-marched tulip soldiers. But it's the Parson-Barnes Anti-Overspacing Act that is most often violated, and it is everyone's responsibility to get in line about this. Bulbs are meant to be planted in big clumps, not distributed one here and one there. Even if all you can afford is one bag of King Alfred daffodils, plant them ALL TOGETHER-groups of 15 to 25 at minimum, and no symmetry allowed-for a big mass of spring color. Later, when the clump multiplies, you can divide it into two or three clumps. But single bulb blooms are just sad in the landscape, and show lack of courage, don't you think?
Our local nurseries carry bulbs, but there is far greater variety through catalogs. You can be the first on your block to grow black tulips, pink daffodils or leopard-spotted bearded iris-not my favorite, because I think the "beard" looks like a big tongue going "bleah"-but most people love iris. Order now for fall planting and while you're waiting for them to arrive, follow a cow around with a bucket. People will understand.
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