Spring is my favorite season. I think it's because all of the time I spent living in Hawaii without seasons. I didn't miss winter much except around Christmas time, but I really missed all of the beautiful spring flowers.
When I first got married and moved to Columbus, I didn't know a thing about planting spring bulbs, but decided to experiment and I've learned they are really easy to grow. Since then, I probably gone a little out of control and I usually force bulbs in the winter too, but I can't help it; they are so beautiful and barely any work. I've had a few friend ask me about planting bulbs so even though there's not much to it, I thought I would share what I know because I love looking at this as Creed and I play in the yard.
First of all, this tutorial is not timed very well because you plant spring bulbs in the fall. You want to try to plant them at least a few weeks before the ground freezes so their roots can become established and provide for a hearty plant, but they won't start growing above ground. When you buy bulbs they usually don't needed fertilizer because they've already been prepared for the best blooms.
Since we've moved a bit I haven't purchased expensive bulbs, but you can order some really amazing bulbs from catalogues like pink daffodils or funky tulips that look more like peonies. I've just picked mine up at Lowe's or Wal-Mart. Look and the bulbs and make sure they are healthy and firm, and the bigger/fatter the better your flower will be. My favorite part of the buying process is designing my flower beds. I try to come up with bulbs of all different heights that will bloom at different times so I can enjoy spring bulbs as long as possible. Crocuses and snowdrops usually come up first, then hyacinth and daffodils, then tulips, then my favorites, allium. There are tons of other varieties so just check the packaging to see if the bulb will bloom early, mid-season or late. That way you can ensure all of your flowers won't bloom at the same time and you'll be able to enjoy them longer. My allium are just coming up, but they will soon look like this. They are my favorite spring bulb (technically a flowering onion).
Some people like to stick with a few colors or even all one color and others like to go crazy and get every different color that they can. It's totally up to you to have fun with. You'll obviously want to plant the shortest growing flowers in front and the largest in back of your planter, but if you don't have a lot of space, you can plant them on top of each other (dig 8 - 10 inches and plant your tulips, then fill your hole in a little plant other bulbs like crocuses that can be planted shallower and will bloom sooner. Gardeners recommend that you plant your bulbs in groupings of at least 6 to 10 instead of rows, because it will look more natural and have a bigger impact and almost look like a bouquet. You can do this by digging a big hole and placing each bulbs a few inches apart (the packaging will tell you exactly how far apart) or bulb planter of small hole to dig several small holes near each other. Just make sure the spot gets lots of sun and stick the bulbs in pointy side up. Cover them up, water them and you're good to go (unless you have squirrels, which will dig most tulips bulbs up and eat them so you need to put wire mesh or something over them until the ground freezes).
I never thought to plant bulbs around the base of a tree, Anita, the previous owner of my house did and I love how it looks.
And the best part is that most bulbs come back year after year and many will multiply. Once the flower is spent, be sure not to remove the leaves until they turn yellow so the plant will be able to make enough food to replace the energy spent growing the flower. I used to have a lot of bulbs at my old apartment and a girl in my ward moved in there after we moved out and the next spring she thanked me for the surprise in her garden. I had no idea what she was talking about until I realized that she didn't know that bulbs come back every year and she thought I most have planted them for her before I moved so that she would have a nice surprise in the spring. I wish I had thought of such a sweet surprise. Maybe I can find a non-gardener in my next neighborhood that I can provide a spring surprise for. Wouldn't you love that surprise?