EVERY lover of flowers should have a garden of bulbs, for three reasons: First, they bloom so early in the season that one can have flowers at least six weeks longer than it is possible to have them if only perennial and annual plants are depended on. Some bulbs come into bloom as soon as the snow is gone, at the north, to be followed by those of later habit, and a constant succession of bloom can be secured by a judicious selection of varieties, thus completely tiding over the usually flowerless period between the going of winter and the coming of the earlier spring flowers. Second, they require but little care, much less than the ordinary plant. Give them a good soil to grow in, and keep weeds and grass from encroaching on them, and they will ask no other attention from you, except when, because of a multiplication of bulbs, they need to be separated and reset, which will be about every third year. The work required in doing this is no more than that involved in spading up a bed for annual flowers. Third, they are so hardy, even at the extreme north, that one can be sure of bloom from them if they are given a good covering in fall, which is a very easy matter to do.
For richness and variety of color this class of plants stands unrivalled. The bulb garden is more brilliant than the garden of annuals which succeeds it.
September is the proper month in which to make the bulb garden.
As a general thing, persons fail to plant their bulbs until October and often November, thinking the time of planting makes very little difference so long as they are put into the ground before winter sets in. Here is where a serious mistake is made. Early planting should always be the rule, - for this reason: Bulbs make their annual growth immediately after flowering, and ripen off by midsummer. After this, they remain dormant until fall, when new root-growth takes place, and the plant gets ready for the work that will be demanded of it as soon as spring opens. It is made during the months of October and November, if cold weather does not set in earlier, and should be fully completed before the ground freezes. If incomplete - as is always the case when late planting is done - the plants are obliged to do - or attempt to do - double duty in spring. That is, the completion of the work left undone in fall and the production of flowers must go on at the same time, and this is asking too much of the plant. It cannot produce fine, perfect flowers with a poorly-developed root-system to supply the strength and nutriment needed for such a task, therefore the plants are not in a condition to do themselves justice. Often late-planted bulbs fail to produce any flowers, and, in most instances, the few flowers they do give are small and inferior in all respects.
With early-planted bulbs it is quite different, because they had all the late fall-season to complete root-growth in, and when winter closed in it found them ready for the work of spring.
Therefore, do not neglect the making of your bulb garden until winter is at hand under the impression that if the bulbs are planted any time before snow comes, all is well. This is the worst mistake you could possibly make.
The catalogues of the bulb-dealers will be sent out about the first of September. Send in your order for the kinds you decide on planting at once, and as soon as your order has gone, set about preparing the place in which you propose to plant them. Have everything in readiness for them when they arrive, and put them into the ground as soon after they are received as possible.
The soil in which bulbs should be planted cannot be too carefully prepared, as much of one's success with these plants depends upon this most important item. It must be rich, and it must be fine and mellow.
The best soil in which to set bulbs is a sandy loam.
The best fertilizer is old, thoroughly rotted cow-manure. On no account should fresh manure be used. Make use, if possible, of that which is black from decomposition, and will crumble readily under the application of the hoe, or iron rake. One-third in bulk of this material is not too much. Bulbs are great eaters, and unless they are well fed you cannot expect large crops of fine flowers from them. And they must be well supplied with nutritious food each year, because the crop of next season depends largely upon the nutriment stored up this season.
If barnyard manure is not obtainable, substitute bonemeal. Use the fine meal, in the proportion of a pound to each yard square of surface. More, if the soil happens to be a poor one. If the soil is heavy with clay, add sand enough to lighten it, if possible.
The ideal location for bulbs is one that is naturally well drained, and has a slope to the south.
Unless drainage is good success cannot be expected, as nothing injures a bulb more than water about its roots. Therefore, if you do not have a place suitable for them so far as natural drainage is concerned, see to it that artificial drainage supplies what is lacking. Spade up the bed to the depth of a foot and a half. That is - throw the soil out of it to that depth, - and put into the bottom of the excavation at least four inches of material that will not decay readily, like broken brick, pottery, clinkers from the coal-stove, coarse gravel - anything that will be permanent and allow water to run off through the cracks and crevices in it, thus securing a system of drainage that will answer all purposes perfectly. It is of the utmost importance that this should be done on all heavy soils. Unless the water from melting snows and early spring rains drains away from the bulbs readily you need not expect flowers from them.
After having arranged for drainage, work over the soil thrown out of the bed until it is as fine and mellow as it can possibly be made. Mix whatever fertilizer you make use of with it, when you do this, that the two may be thoroughly incorporated. Then return it to the bed. There will be more than enough to fill the bed, because some space is given up to drainage material, but this will be an advantage because it will enable you to so round up the surface that water will run off before it has time to soak into the soil to much depth.