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Bulbs in bloom. . .

Behold the season's first blooms! This is always an exciting time, one that often creeps up on even the most seasoned gardener.

From the depths of gently warming soil, bulbs are some of the earliest to stir. These silent performers break ground, bud and bloom in what seems like the blink of an eye. The result is the most welcome display of color and frill at the end of a long winter season

Blooming bulbs remind us spring is indeed here, even in the midst of lingering frosts and flurries, they dutifully press onward. More cold hardy than most bloomers, bulbs are a great way to kick off the spring season, and if an assortment of varieties are selected carefully, can offer continuous blooms for months.

Take a peek at what's blooming in my Western North Carolina garden right now:

Pictured is an assortment of some of my favorite daffodils, hyacinth and perennial tulips blooming now in Asheville's early-to-arrive spring.

Although autumn is the time to plant bulbs for the following spring (be sure to plant 6-8 weeks before expected hard frost), now is the time to enjoy what is on display and take note for next year. Garden journals come in very handy for this, you can write down favorite varieties and order now while they are still available. Some varieties are difficult to find as the season progresses, so order early to secure yours.

Other than the obvious perks of early spring blooms, bulbs are great for early season floral arranging since most of us love to bring a clutch of the garden indoors to enjoy. Some bulbs produce blooms fragrant enough to sent a whole room.

Here are a few other helpful fine-gardening hints and tricks for planting bulbs in your garden:

1. After your bulbs are finished blooming, leave the foliage to die back naturally as this will allow the plant to make food which is stored in the bulb for next year.

2. Some bulbs such as daffodils are generally not bothered by squirrels and rodents because they are noxious, so pick bulbs carefully to avoid them becoming food for forest critters.

3. Plant bulbs at the appropriate soil depth (this varies depending on the variety) in well drained soil that gets plenty of spring sun.

4. Bulbs often live well with shallow rooted ground cover such as Tiarella cordifolia or Phlox stonolifera.

Don't hesitate to include bulbs into your garden, they are well worth the investment when they emerge before nearly everything else and usher in the season with beauty and dependability. As they naturalize in your garden, bulbs will keep getting better and better throughout the years.

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