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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 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

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

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

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

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

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

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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