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Plant bulbs now for spring blooming

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Jennifer Moore
You need this in your perennial border.

Now is the time to get your garden ready for fall, and instead of dreading the task, think about the glorious spring blooms to be had. Garden centres are supplied with spring flowering bulbs of daffodils, hyacinths, narcissus, tulips and crocus, but let's not stop there. Unusual bulbs that can brighten any area of the garden can be purchased as well, some including: various allium, spring snowflake, fall blooming crocus, species tulips, fritillarias and others.

When purchasing bulbs, look for the largest and most firm ones for their species. Small bulbs may not produce a flower in it's first year being planted and soft bulbs may not produce at all. All bulbs should be planted with their tips facing up, flat side of the bulb facing to the outside of the hole, planted three times as deep as they are tall and at least double their width apart. If in doubt which side is up, plant the bulb on its side and it will correct itself when it grows.

Remember too, when planting your bulbs in your garden, plant them in sweeping drifts or in clumps of odd numbers, as this ensures they don't look like soldiers standing to attention when they are in bloom.

Bulbs have everything they need inside themselves and need very little help from us. A granular, all-purpose fertilizer, such as 20-20-20 can be scratched into the top of the soil, but it isn't a must to do.

To keep squirrels, chipmunks and moles away, add human hair from your hairdresser or bloodmeal to the planting hole when planting. They don't like the smell of humans or the smell of dried blood and will therefore stay away. Daffodils are poisonous to them as well, so if you have a big problem with them, daffodils may be the bulb to choose.

Bulbs are also very forgiving to a gardener. If your bulbs don't seem to be in the right spot the first year, let their leaves die down naturally, dig them up and replant them. They will reward you again the following year with their flowers.

Bulbs do need to be dug up and spaced out every 3 to 5 years or they tend to get crowded and will stop blooming. Varieties good for naturalizing are available as well, and therefore eliminate the need to dig and replant. They will be labeled as such or ask your garden centre expert.

Another interesting plant is the Foxtail Lily, and it too should be planted in the fall. It is grown from very thick and fleshy roots, grows 3 to 5 feet tall with bright yellow and peach long spikes. The leaves remain at the base and are grey-green and narrow.

For the indoor gardener, forcing bulbs for your table can be just as easy, just remember to purchase bulbs that are marked "for forcing". If you are not sure if they have already received a cold treatment, place them into your refrigerator for 6 to 10 weeks before planting in your container.

Bulbs that are used for forcing indoors cannot be forced two years in succession. After you enjoy your forced bulbs one year, plant them into your garden to bloom the following year. Once they have bloomed in your garden in the second year, dig them up after the leaves have died down naturally, and force them again for indoors in the third year. This process can be done over and over, just remember to keep the greenery growing as long as possible to feed the bulbs for the next year.

Another popular bulb planted for indoors is the Amaryllis, with its large strap-like leaves and huge trumpet-shaped blossoms borne on tall stems. These are usually seen available around Christmas and Easter, but once you have a bulb it can last for many years.

The varieties of bulbs available are astounding; many colours, heights, shapes and styles to choose from for every spot in your garden. Try some!

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