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Around the Yard

Things to do this week:

October 19, 2000|ROBERT SMAUS

* Give roses a rest? After they bloom this fall, you have a choice: Cut off the fading flowers and the plants will probably bloom again near the December holidays. Or leave the faded flowers on the plants so they form those decorative fruits called "hips," which are pretty in their own right (they look wintry during the holidays). Some feel that these rose fruits force the rose to take a much-needed winter rest.

Stop fertilizing roses this month so they can gently fade into winter dormancy.

* Plant bulbs. Nurseries are filled with tempting bulbs, but be aware that some popular kinds are essentially annuals that will bloom this spring but then must be dug up and tossed out. Tulips are one bulb that won't be back, and special steps are required even to get them to bloom properly the first spring. Bulbs must be refrigerated for six weeks (in the vegetable crisper) and then planted 6 to 8 inches deep on top of an inch-thick cushion of sand. It's a lot of work for a week of flowers, though planting them where they get a little afternoon shade helps blooms last. One place where tulips do well is in pots, though the plants still must be tossed out at the end of the season.

Hyacinths and spring crocus also need this chilling. In addition, lily-of-the-valley, dwarf species of bulbous iris, snowdrops and winter aconite 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. That might be very few at the beach, but many on a dry hillside in a cold canyon. Some that are sure-fire anywhere include 'Unsurpassable,' 'Ice Follies,' 'Fortune,' 'Suzy,' 'Geranium,' 'Grand Soleil d' Or,' 'Trevithian' and the small flowered kinds called paper whites.

There are bulbs that need no winter cold and little care from the gardener. They'll come back and bloom year after year if you can keep the bulb or corm from getting soggy in summer when it is dormant. These include many alliums, Tecolate anemones, babiana, brodiaea, chasmanthe, freesia, Dutch iris, ixia, muscari, oxalis, some scillas, tritonia and watsonia. Ranunculus probably won't bloom a second year, but they sure make a show in spring and cost little.

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