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Time to think spring, as in bulbs

Yellow jonquils
These mini jonquils smell as good as they look. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Order Dutch favorites now for fall planting

Bulb houses specialize in unusual varieties
as well as old-fashioned favorites.

Every July, my garden calendar has the same reminder: Order bulbs.

Mail order nurseries that specialize in Dutch-grown favorites traditionally offer midsummer price breaks for early-bird requests. Also, with the recent boon in gardening interest, many of the most popular varieties are likely to sell out.

Ordered now, bulbs will arrive in late September -- perfect time for fall planting.

It's a great opportunity to buy bulbs in bulk at a discount. Create your own mini Daffodil Hill or Tulipmania.

Some suppliers offer hundreds of unusual varieties not found in retail nurseries. Plant a Dutch-inspired spring extravaganza with blooms from February through April.

Where to start? Here are a few of my favorites:

-- Breck's ( ): The go-to source for Dutch bulbs since 1818. Breck's now offers 190 varieties of daffodils, 210 different tulips, 25 hyacinth varieties and a lot more. Enough to fill any Dutch masterpiece.

-- John Scheepers ( ): This Connecticut-based nursery has been in the bulb business since 1908. It offers scores of species tulips and other unusual tulips and daffodils in bulk with great price breaks. Get naturalizing narcissuses by the hundred.

-- K. van Bourgondien ( ): Another longtime supplier, this company specializes in mixes and collections. Get more variety for less money.

-- Michigan Bulb Co. ( ): This specialty house offers big discounts through July 31 with readymade mixes for a long season of bloom, such as Three Months of Daffodils.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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