In starting a wholly new bed, as you are doing, it is best to separate the tangled roots into small bunches, seeing to it that a few buds or "pips" remain with each, and plant in long rows a foot apart, three rows to a four-foot bed. Be sure to bury a well-tarred plank a foot in width edgewise at the outer side of the bed, unless you wish, in a couple of years' time, to have this enterprising flower walk out and about the surrounding garden and take it for its own. Be sure to press the roots in thoroughly and cover with three inches of soil.
In December cover the bed with rotten cow manure for several inches and rake off the coarser part in April, taking care not to break the pointed "pips" that will be starting, and you will have a forest of cool green leaves and such flowers as it takes much money to buy. Not the first season, of course, but after that - forever, if you thin out and fertilize properly.
In the back part of your lily-of-the-valley bed plant two or three rows of the lovely poets' narcissus (poeti-cus). It opens its white flowers of the "pheasant's eye " cup at the same time as the lilies bloom, it grows sufficiently tall to make a good upward gradation, and it likes to be let severely alone. But do not forget in covering in the fall to put leaves over the narcissi instead of manure. Of other daffodils and narcissi that I have found very satisfactory, besides the good mixtures offered by reliable houses at only a dollar or a dollar and a quarter a hundred (the poets' narcissi only costing eighty cents a hundred for good bulbs), are Trumpet Major, Incomparabilis, the old-fashioned "daffy," and the monster yellow trumpet narcissus, Van Sion.
The polyanthus narcissi, carrying their many flowers in heads at the top of the stalk, are what is termed half hardy and they are more frequently seen in florists' windows than in gardens. I have found them hardy if planted in a sheltered spot, covered with slanted boards and leaves, which should not be removed before April, as the spring rain and winds, I am convinced, do more to kill the species than winter cold. The flowers are heavily fragrant, like gardenias, and are almost too sweet for the house; but they, together with violets, give the garden the opulence of odour before the lilacs are open, or the heliotropes that are to be perfumers-in-chief in summer have graduated from thumb pots in the forcing houses.
The Poet's Narcissus.
Unless one has a large garden and a gardener who can plant and tend parterres of spring colour, I do not set much value upon outdoor hyacinths; they must be lifted each year and often replaced, as the large bulbs soon divide into several smaller ones with the flowers proportionately diminished. To me their mission is, to be grown in pots, shallow pans, or glasses on the window ledge, for winter and spring comforters, and I use the early tulips much in the same way, except for a cheerful line of them, planted about the foundation of the house, that when in bloom seems literally to lift home upon the spring wings of resurrection!
All my tulip enthusiasm is centred in the late varieties, and chief among these come the fascinating and fantastic "parrots."
When next I have my garden savings-bank well filled, I am going to make a collection of these tulips and guard them in a bed underlaid with stout-meshed wire netting, so that no mole may leave a tunnel for the wicked tulip-eating meadow-mouse.
It is these late May-flowering tulips of long stalks, like wands of tall perennials, that you can gather in your arms and arrange in your largest jars with a sense at once combined of luxury and artistic joy.
Better begin as I did by buying them in mixture; the species you must choose are the bizarre, bybloems, parrots, breeders, Darwin tulips, and the rose and white, together with a general mixture of late singles. Five dollars will buy you fifty of each of the seven kinds, three hundred and fifty bulbs all told and enough for a fine display. The Darwin tulips yield beautiful shades of violet, carmine, scarlet, and brown; the bizarres, many curious effects in stripes and flakes; the rose and white, delicate frettings and margins of pink on a white ground; but the parrots have petals fringed, twisted, beaked, poised curiously upon the stalks, splashed with reds, yellows, and green, and to come suddenly upon a mass of them in the garden is to think for a brief moment that a group of unknown birds blown from the tropics in a forced migration have alighted for rest upon the bending tulip stalks.