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For a one-two punch, bulbs and annuals together.

Stuffed with annuals, pots of fall-planted bulbs stage a changing color show in spring. First the annual flowers appear, then the bulbs push up, bursting into bloom above them. Once bulb flowers are spent, the annuals carry on the show.

"You get a long-season display that packs a lot of color into a pot," says Dave Sollway of Crest Garden Center in Rolling Hills, California, who planted the two pots pictured at right.

In the mild- to moderate-winter West, now is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs and annuals. In very cold areas, you can plant hardy bulbs now, but protect pots and soil from freezing; plant annuals after bulb foliage emerges in spring. What to plant for pot companions

Low-growing annuals with relatively small flowers are the best bulb companions. Choose ones that bloom long enough to coincide with bloom times of the bulbs you want to use. Bedding plants from sixpacks (about $1 each) get pots off to a good start, but you can also start annuals in place from seed.

Since some bulbs aren't reliable year-after-year performers in pots--especially when combined with annuals--choose the least expensive varieties. You can try tulips (dust with fungicide before planting; we found them very rot-prone in containers with annuals), hyacinths, and--in mild climates--anemones, freesias, sparaxis, or ranunculus. Of the bulbs, daffodils and Dutch iris are especially reliable performers in mixed plantings in pots. Below, we suggest some ways to combine them with annuals.

Daffodils and other narcissus. Choices include yellow, white, and bicolors. Bloom comes between December and April, depending on variety. Least expensive kinds include yellow "King Alfred' (about 50 to 60 cents each) and white 'Mount Hood' (70 to 80 cents each).

Plant 'King Alfred' daffodils with yellow Chrysanthemum multicaule or white-flowered C. paludosum, or a carpet of rose sweet alyssum. Or surround yellow daffodils with purple sweet alyssum and a sprinkling of purple or yellow violas.

Plant a couple of orange-centered daffodils with clusters of purple-and-yellow Johnny-jump-ups and orange dwarf nemesia (in mild-winter climates) or apricot violas.

Dutch iris. Choose from dark to light blue, white, yellow, purple, or bronze tones, all streaked with yellow. Flowers appear on two-foot stems in March or April in warmer climates, May or June in colder areas. Bulbs cost about 25 cents each.

Wedgwood iris (shown at right), usually sold as Dutch iris, is more frost-tender because it blooms several weeks earlier.

Set deep blue Dutch iris in a sea of yellow C. multicaule or yellow violas, or surround them with pink or white fairy primroses and yellow violas. For an elegant bouquet, surround white Dutch iris with white sweet alyssum and a few white or pale blue violas. How to plant: drainage is important

You can use any kind of clay, ceramic, or plastic pot, or a wooden container, as long as it allows good drainage. Fill the pot roughly two-thirds full with a loose, fast-draining mix of equal parts loam, coarse sand, and organic matter such as peat moss. Mix in a small amount of complete granular fertilizer (an NPK formula of 9-9-6 or 10-10-10, for example).

Plant bulbs as shown in step 1 above; set them so they're practically touching in pot center, or space them 2 to 3 inches apart, depending on the effect you want. Cover with soil so tips will be just below the surface; press soil to firm it around bulbs. It mild areas, plant annuals as show in step 2 above; water well. In coldest areas, set pots where they'll be protected from freezing until it's time to plant annuals. Care: watering, feeding

Water whenever soil starts to feel dry to touch. After annual blooms appear, feed every two weeks with a dilute liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Once bulb blooms fade (they'll last two to three weeks) and bulb foliage begins to yellow, either cut back to allow annuals to continue blooming unhindered, or take these steps to save bulbs: gradually withhold water and allow foliage to die back (annuals will also fade), then dig and store bulbs for planting out next season.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1984
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