See these cheerful spring-blooming bulbs pop up next spring

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By Susan Brown, County Extension

Ever walk by an abandoned home where someone once lived and gardened and notice a blanket of spring-flowering daffodils?
While the rest of the woods are bare, hundreds of daffodil blossoms form a cheerful carpet of bulbs, perhaps where a garden once stood. Bulbs have and will stand the test of time. Their vigor and self-reliance inspire me to arrange and plant bulbs in my own garden.
Naturalized areas flourish when planted with bulb species and varieties that spread freely in fields, meadows, lawns and along wooded paths. When selecting bulbs for planting, it is important to choose varieties that will perform well with no additional care after planting.
The best spring flowering bulbs for naturalizing are those that adapt to a broad range of climates, aren’t too fussy about moisture, light, or soil type and are vigorous without being invasive. These include many old favorites such as Crocus, daffodils and jonquils (Narcissus spp), grape hyacinths (Muscari spp), common snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and spring snowflakes (Leucojum vernum).
Bulbs can be planted in five easy steps. Naturalized plantings are designed with gentle curves and undulating lines to create a flowing, informal design.
There are many ways to achieve this look, from scattering bulbs across the planting area to placing bulbs in specific spots. The first method can produce a random pattern, while the second could be time consuming. Using both techniques will provide you with the best coverage and design.
Once the bulbs are in place, go back and space them the proper distance apart. You may want to move some bulbs outside of the boundary line to create a more natural look. Fill in the empty spaces with the remaining bulbs.
 If you are planting more than one bulb species at a time, place the larger bulbs first, since their size makes them the focus of the planting. The smaller bulbs can be used to create the background.
When all the bulbs are in place, it is time to start planting. Use a spade, trowel or bulb planter to penetrate the soil to the proper planting depth and place the bulb in the hole. Leave the holes open until all of the bulbs are planted so you know where they have already been placed.
Add compost on top of each bulb until the planting hole is nearly full. Water well and push the hole closed with the remaining soil. Take special care not to damage the bulb.
After planting, broadcast fertilizer over the planting area to encourage strong growth. Many people recommend using bone meal.
While a good source of phosphorus, it doesn’t supply enough nitrogen and potassium and attracts rodent pests to the planting area. Dried seaweed is a natural fertilizer better suited to fertilize bulbs. If using a synthetic fertilizer, choose a product specifically for bulbs or a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer.

SUSAN BROWN is a horticulture agent with the Brunswick County Extension Service. Call 253-2610 or e-mail susan_brown@ncsu.edu.