This section is from the book "How To Make A Flower Garden", by Wilhelm Miller. Also available from Amazon: The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques.
THE time to prepare for the spirng feast of flowers is in the fall. Too often people forget all about it until they see the tulips in the parks or in their neighbours' gardens, and then they hie to the bulb-seller in a quest for bulbs. Generally speaking, from the middle of October until the ground is closed with frost the spring-flowering bulbs may be planted. Some of the species are late in ripening - lily-of-the-valley, for instance - and so the planting stock is not available until November. In our northern climate frost and snow may have made their appearance before these are procurable, so the expedient of covering the ground where they are to be planted must be adopted. Coarse bagging spread over the ground, and a covering of three or four inches of leaves, hay or litter of any kind, will answer. The best bulb garden the writer ever had - a small one, 'tis true - was planted on New Year's Day, the soil having been kept frost-free by the method described. However, unquestionably, the earlier the better.
The first customers get the best stock, and the amateur will do well to order his hardy bulbs in September, for October planting.
The ideal soil for most bulbs is a friable, sandy loam, well enriched with barnyard manure in which is a goodly proportion of cow manure. This, bear in mind, must be thoroughly rotted and mixed to obtain best results. It is a common practice for amateurs to get manure fresh from the horse stables and put it in the soil. The fermentation is almost sure to kill the roots. In case properly prepared barnyard manure is not available, then a concentrated fertiliser may be used. This can be obtained of any dealer. The brand does not make much difference. Any complete fertiliser will do. Of vital importance it is to thoroughly dig the soil and pulverise it; also to see that water does not lodge on the beds where bulbs are planted. Let them be raised above the surface of the garden and sufficiently convexed to shed the rain that falls. It will repay, also, to cover the beds with two or three inches of the manure already described, not alone for the protection given to the bulbs, but also for the sustenance derived from it. That covering should be taken off in the spring, when all danger of severe frost is past, about the time the bulbs begin to send up their growths.
This refers particularly to hyacinths and tulips, but applies to nearly all varieties.
The place to plant bulbs and the formation of the beds must be determined by the individual facilities of the planter. If opportunity exists to have large beds in fancy designs, they should be adopted - nothing is more attractive. For this purpose hyacinths and tulips are admirably fitted. Curved beds or fancy scrolls of tulips along the drives on large estates, or even on modest ones, are most effective. In planting, care should be taken to obtain varieties which bloom at the same time and attain the same heights, or the desired effect will be lost. Round, square, oblong, crescent, star-shaped, oval - in fact, any bed design which suits the owner's fancy and will harmonise with the surroundings may be adopted for planting hyacinths and tulips. Good contrasting colours should be used and so planted as to bring out and accentuate the adjoining colours. Beds of one solid colour will find favour with many, and are very effective. All the dealers in bulbs cater to the demand for this style of planting, and have lists of varieties made up especially for it, so that the intending planter need not be at a loss as to what varieties to select. All he need decide is the size of the beds and their form, and the dealer will be able to give him the material, properly selected, for planting them.
It is well, however, to note the names of particular varieties which have given the planter especial satisfaction.
Double Narcissus Sulphur Phoenix.
In park work and public places, where it is imperative to get the very best results, it is the common practice to discard the tulips and hyacinths after they have bloomed once. The amateur, however, may remove these bulbs to a less conspicuous position, as the back yard, the hardy border, or the wild garden, where they will continue to bloom year after year indefinitely. It is now a mooted question, considering the price at which new and superior bulbs can be purchased, whether or not it is worth while taking up hyacinth and tulip bulbs and keeping them for a succeeding year. If it is to be done, the time to do it is after they have ceased flowering, when the leaves turn yellow. Dig them then, place them m a sunny position, put enough soil on to cover the bulbs, and when all vegetation has gone from them put them away in a cool, well-ventilated place, until time to replant in the fall.
Indiscriminate planting in the border is much easier than bedding, and here the veriest tyro can hardly go wrong. Wherever there is room, put in some bulbs, singly, in pairs, in half-dozens and dozens; the keenest pleasure is derived in finding the unexpected come up here and there. This is the place to plant bulbs for the purpose of cutting; in the design bed, cutting the flowers will mar the effect of the whole, but they are not missed from the mixed border. This is the place for jonquils, daffodils, all varieties of narcissi, and yet they are thoroughly at home in large beds by themselves. It is the place also to put in clumps of the lovely lily-of-the-valley, the stately iris, and the massive peony which is often considered by dealers as a bulbous plant. Here they live and have their being year after year, undisturbed by the vagaries of Dame Fashion; for, even in matters of the garden, the fickle jade will interfere, and the design which finds favour this year may be frowned upon the next.
Trumpet daffodil (Horsfieldll).