Bulbs light up the garden

There is a park in Holland, known as Keukenhof, that is open for only two months during the year, from the end of March until the end of May. Keukenhof opens its gates for only one reason: to display the bursting into bloom of the 7 million bulbs planted there.
The park was conceived more than 50 years ago to showcase Holland’s bulbs — and especially its tulips — for unabashedly commercial and promotional purposes.
You may not have room to grow even a fraction of the several thousand varieties of crocus, narcissus, daffodil, tulip and hyacinth found at Keukenhof, but you can still create a vibrant flower garden in late winter and early spring by planting now.
Bulbs should be selected as soon as they are available at your favorite nursery or garden center. Get the largest, firmest, most blemish-free bulbs available.
If you live in the Valley, where the winter is mild, but still want a springtime display of Dutch-bred bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths, you should put them in the least cold area of the refrigerator, usually where lettuce is kept, for four to six weeks.
Why refrigerate?
This vernalization, or chilling preparation, mimics the climate in Holland.
Narcissus, daffodil, crocus and any of the South African bulbs — crinum, ixia, lachenalia, sparaxis, watsonia — should be planted now.
Planting bulbs early assures a highly developed root system before leaves and flowers form several months from now. Strong roots create robust foliage and sturdy flower stems. Roots can also protect the South Africa bulbs from cold damage during the winter, as they are used to warm winters.
To make roots grow right now, water bulbs immediately after planting. You don’t want your bulbs to rot, so irrigate with caution. Ideally, you will water just enough to keep soil from drying out.
Dig planting trenches or beds to a depth of 8 inches and, for perfect drainage, backfill with compost or bagged soil amendments and sand. Plant at a depth that is three times the width of the bulb or corm, pointed side up. Plant corms (anemone, crocus and freesia) 3 inches apart and bulbs (tulip, daffodil, hyacinth) 5 inches apart. A corm looks like a small bulb except that it is composed of solid tissue, whereas a bulb — of which onions are classic examples — has layers of discreet scales wrapped around one another.
Bulbs generally prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Dappled sun under tall trees is also an excellent microclimate for bulb growth.
Abundant choices
The following bulbs are considered moderately shade-tolerant: hyacinth, arum, ornamental onion or alium, fritillaria, erythronium, puschkinia, chinodoxa.
A clump of hippeastrum spreads indefatigably in Valley gardens, producing an arresting blare of trumpets that grows louder from one year to the next.

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