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Some bulbs are almost foolproof.

Some bulbs are almost foolproof

A sure bet for beginning gardeners are big bulbs in the narcissue (daffodil) clan. They poke through the soil quickly, their spring flowers are distinctive, and they thrive despite infrequent, unskilled attention. Most kinds also come back year after year. Now is the time to plant. For shopping tips on bulbs, see page 94.

All commonly sold daffodils are easy to grow. Here we describe nine sturdy varieties that are widely available and especially prolific and long-lived in mild-winter areas of the West. In cold-winter areas, choose single- or double-flowered types; tazetta types (they look similar to those shown) usually can't take hard freezes.

Multiflowered types have smaller flowers that individually are less dramatic in the garden, but they tend to bloom 4 to 10 days longer than single-flowered ones.

Beginners often like to buy one or two of each variety. That's fine if you just want a few pretty flowers to see or to cut for bouquets. But if you want impact in the landscape, plant clusters of at least a dozen of each kind--experienced gardeners who really want an impressive display use a hundred or more of each kind.

Nine heavy-duty daffs

"Binkie'. When they open, flowers are soft yellow; large cups then fade to white.

"Carlton'. Fragrant soft yellow flowers have large cups.

"February Gold'. Shorter and smaller than the classic daffodil, these long-nosed golden flowers bloom by February.

"Geranium'. Clusters of small flowers similar to those shown opposite top each stem, spreading perfume for weeks. Petals are white, with small orange-red cups.

"Mabel Taylor'. One of the more durable pinks, it has ivory petals, with a yellow cup edged in rose pink.

Paper whites (shown). Newly planted bulbs produce clusters of small, fragrant white flowers is spring; in future years, they may open by Thanksgiving.

"Tete-a-tete'. Pairs of miniature golden trumpets top 6- to 8-inch stems.

"Thalia'. Small all-white flowers nod in clusters of two or three from each stem.

"Yellow Cheerfulness'. Clusters of four to eight small butter yellow doubles have petal-packed centers instead of cups; they bloom in late spring.

Laying the groundwork

Choose a spot that gets sun in winter and early spring. To improve drainage, add soil amendments as needed.

Plant now, pointed ends up, in holes twice as deep as bulb diameter. Space large bulbs about 6 inches apart, miniature ones 3 inches apart. Water as needed to keep soil damp between winter rains.

Snails and slugs ignore most bulb leaves but can devour flowers overnight; bait or hand-pick regularly once buds color.

Photo: Even a toddler can succeed with narcissus; those at right are paper whites. Their main needs are spongy soil, snail control, and watering between rains. Plant bulbs pointed end up; each nose usually sends up a flower
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1987
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