The hyacinth, tulip and hardy narcissus are usually planted in the open ground in October and November. They should always be planted a good six inches deep. The closer together the better the effect. A thinly planted tulip bed looks bad and is not worth doing. I call a foot apart thin. Six inches apart will make a gorgeous bed. Some extensive experience with these Dutch bulbs in beds has convinced us that late planting gives the best results. Tulips planted as late as the end of November will remain longer in bloom than those planted the middle of October. A bed that has received a good addition of manure in the spring before the summer bedding plants were planted needs no more manuring, but the richer the soil the finer will be your blossoms.
The great majority of our bulbs when planted to succeed the flower garden plants are intended to flower only one year, and that suits the florist who supplies the bulbs very well, but that is no reason why the bulbs should be neglected or thrown away. The bulbs may either be lifted or left in the bed, as desired. If lifted, the tops should be about ripe before the bulbs are disturbed. If lifted as soon as the flower is faded you have arrested the formation of the bulb that was storing up its strength for the following year.
The early tulips and hyacinths bloom with us early in May. As our bedding plants do not go out till nearly or quite june 1, there is nearly time to give the bulbs a chance to mature. Two weeks later, however, would be much better if the welfare of the bulbs was the main consideration. When first lifted expose the bulbs and tops to the air till they are ripe and the tops wither away, when the tops can be pulled off, the bulbs cleaned and stored away in a dry, cool place till fall. I noticed this spring about as good flowers produced by tulips the second year as by those freshly imported. The bulbs will do very well if left in the ground, which it is sometimes convenient to do, in the mixed border, for instance. If in beds you can sow some summer annuals over them, such as California poppy, without much harm.
There are always some inquiries as to "When shall I cover my tuiip bed?" These and the hyacinths are perfectly hardy and no covering is necessary till Christmas, when two or three inches of stable manure or litter can be put on the bed. It helps not so much to keep frost out as to prevent the surface from continuously alternating between a freeze and a thaw, which often occurs in the months of March and April.
In planting a bed of bulbs to any set pattern or design look out for time of flowering of the several sorts. Crocuses are always best alone and should not be used with the tulips and hyacinths. Von Sion narcissus is about as early as the hyacinths, which are several days ahead of the earliest tulips, and should not be in the same group. The early single tulips (except Duc Van Thol, which should not be used) all flower about the same day and go well together. The early double tulips are all right with the early single tulips. We noticed La Candeur, the inexpensive double white, planted with the early tulips. That was a mistake, as it is ten days later than the early tulips. If a double white is needed with the single varieties Murillo is the sort; it is early and a grand flower. Yellow Prince, Chrysolora, La Belle Alliance, all the Pottebakkers, La Reine, Keizerskroon, Proserpine, Vermilion Brilliant, Cottage Maid, Tournesol - in fact, all the early single and double tulips can be planted in one combination and will make a fine display. The little blue scilla can be planted with the crocus. It blooms with the crocus soon after the snow is gone. We have noticed some people excavate six inches of soil, spread an inch of sand, then place the bulbs on the sand, covering with the soil that was thrown out. This is a useless waste of time and labor. The best display of tulips we have ever seen was planted at the end of November in a heavy clay loam with a third of cow manure. It was at least one foot deep. The bulbs were planted with a stout stick and the bulb just dropped into the hole, and previous snowfalls had made the soil almost the consistency of mud. The extraordinary size of the blossoms and the long time they remained in perfection convinced us the roots were relishing the manure, and, not having made much roots in the fall, there was younger, fresher and more vigorous root action when the bulbs were flowering, and that sustained the flowers a week longer than is usually the case.