It is often urged against the professional gardener that he is ultra-conservative in his methods, but it is equally true of the amateur, so far as his selections are concerned, and especially with reference to bulbs. There is nothing to be said against the practice of filling one bed with Emperor, another with Empress Daffodils, and so on, except that it is very ordinary gardening and to be compared with planting the same beds in summer with Geranium and Calceolaria which, however greatly they may add to the gaiety of the garden, are painfully monotonous. Do not, I beg of you, continue to order just those ordinary kinds of bulbs which are to be seen in everyone else’s garden; try others which may be but names to you. You may experience a few disappointments, but they will be as nothing in comparison with the delight that follows upon the discovery of some fresh treasure.
It must be confessed that some bulb catalogues are very ordinary, and one may search through them in vain for anything more thrilling than the usual Tulips, Hyacinths, Daffodils, and others equally common. But there are catalogues that describe black and green and fragrant Tulips; red Squills; Wood Anemones in white, yellow, blue and rose; remarkable Alliums (the Onion is an Allium) ; exquisite winter Crocuses ; hardy Cyclamens ; golden Fritillaries ; giant Snowdrops ; Irises that blossom in winter ; white, blue and rose Grape Hyacinths ; and Angel’s Tears, Hoop Petticoat and Cyclamen-flowered Daffodils. With such flower wealth at command why continue to restrict your choice to those few kinds that are ubiquitous?
Half the joy of gardening lies in trying fresh flowers; why plant a garden at all, if only to use such plants as are grown to perfection in public parks and gardens? The garden at home should be different; it should possess individuality, even in its selection of bulbs. Having obtained the right catalogue, do not merely turn its pages casually with an admiring glance at its fine illustrations, but delve into the store of good things; order them and plant them and watch with a gardener’s joy the coming to life of something you have never seen before. Then shall your garden have an interest perennial and ever new. Just a few words concerning planting, then together let us search a catalogue that I will choose.
Concerning planting. Everyone knows that ordinary herbaceous plants grow better in ground that has been deeply dug and manured than in that which has been merely forked over; that is a truism. Yet lots of people believe that bulbs will grow anywhere. So, they will, after a fashion; even if you plant Hyacinths (as I have seen done) so that only half the bulb is beneath the soil they will blossom, because, fortunately for the happy-go-lucky gardener, Hyacinths are more or less independent of soil and will flower if given only water in which to grow. But what a travesty of gardening such planting is! There is no need to dig a trench to grow bulbs to perfection, but the soil must be stirred to a reasonable depth, say 18 inches, which does not necessitate laborious digging. Given this, and as much sand as you can afford (all bulbs like plenty of sand), together with a fair sprinkling of bonemeal and wood ashes some 12 inches below the surface, and there remains but to plant the bulbs at the proper depth, and watch and wait for the first days of spring.