Columbine is a beautiful perennial that is not difficult to grow from seed. In fact, it's much more rugged than its delicate appearance indicates. To improve germination, refrigerate the seed for three weeks before planting. Fill a flat or a pot with a good house-plant mix and scatter the seed; it doesn't need to be covered because light helps germination. Putting the flat in a plastic bag (such as one from the dry cleaners) will keep the mix moist, but be sure to prop the plastic up with sticks to hold it well above the seed. Germination takes between three and four weeks. Thompson & Morgan (P.O. Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527) offers 17 types of columbine.
Fertilize tulips. Research has demonstrated that tulips properly fertilized may bloom better and also may become perennials rather than annuals. Fertilizing at the time of bloom seems to do little good; the fertilizer should be available when root growth starts. Be sure to keep it away from the bulbs themselves to avoid burn or rot. Bulb fertilizers are usually high in phosphorus.
More bedding plants are sold in Southern California in October than at any other time of the year. Planted early enough, many not only will be in bloom for Christmas but also will continue to flower until the summer weather arrives. To grow in the shade, look for cyclamen, cineraria (in frost-free areas) and three primroses--English, Chinese and malacoides. For the sunny areas, you'll find Iceland poppies, calendula, stock, snapdragons, pansy and viola, plus many others.