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October 04, 1998|Robert Smaus

Things to do in your garden this week.

Plant Bulbs. Nurseries are filling up with tempting bulbs, but be aware that many will not come back a second year; they are essentially expensive annuals in our climate, and you throw them away when the season is done.

Tulips top this list, and special steps are required even to get them to bloom properly. They must be refrigerated for six weeks (in the vegetable crisper) and be planted 6 to 8 inches deep in a little shade on top of a cushion of sand. It's a lot of work for a week of bloom. Hyacinths have similar requirements, though they sometimes struggle along into a second year.

Lily-of-the-valley, dwarf species of iris, snowdrops, winter aconite and many spring crocus also require more cold in winter than we can provide.

Daffodils, depending on type, may or may not come back and bloom in succeeding years. The chillier your winters, and the drier you can keep the soil in summer, the more varieties you can grow. At the beach, that might be very few, but on a dry hillside in cold Topanga Canyon, it's many.

Rose rest. After roses bloom in fall, you have a choice. Cut off the fading flowers and the plants will probably bloom again near the December holidays. Some rose growers prefer to leave the faded flowers on the plants so they form those decorative fruits called hips.

Orange and red hips are pretty in their own right (they look wintery during the holidays), and some feel that they force the rose to take a much-needed winter rest. You should also stop fertilizing roses this month so they can gently fade into winter dormancy.

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