TOW: Landscaping with Bulbs

John Ingram
Tue, 07 Oct 2003 10:25:02 PDT
Mary Sue, 
Only 5 bulbs huh? How about 5 genera? Under these
constraints, I would have to say iris, peonies,
Muscari, Tulip, and Chionodoxa. Ok, I can't forget one
other, lilies. (These are all notes form my aunt's
home in Ohio, I will go into So Cal bulbs seperately
Ok, under these genera I can be a little more
specific, right? LOL
Iris, well, how do I start? I buy every single pallida
I can find, both color forms. THey are nice accents
all summer long. The spring fragance they have when
planted in mass is quite noticeable.
I have a large collection of Japanese, Siberian,
German (bearded), dwarf, Luoisiana, and a many misc.
other forms such as Spuria, Dutch, English, bucharica,
and a reticulata. 
The Japanese and Siberians are the majority of the
summer color. For the rest of the year, I consider
then to be texture plants. I have neverseen these in
bloom as I am not in Ohio during their bloom time. 
The German (bearded) forms are the ones that I do get
to see every year as they are blooming in May when I
am home. Lovely 3 to 4' tall spikes in mostly
lavenders and blues. I only wishg these would be more
of a foliage piece for the rest of the growing year. 
Peonies: what is there to say? A garden is not
complete without huge mounds of peonies. Tree peonies
are a real treat. If anyone out there doesn't have one
by now, GET ONE! The flowers, once they mature in 3-5
years, can get tup to 12" across each. Now, who does
nto want a trouble free plant in their garden with
dinnerplate size flowers???? The cost in the fall is
greatly reduced at most garden centers because they do
not want to carry them over the winter. They usually
have a name or color on the stem at the base
somewhere. I just go through and pick out ones I don't
have. I think I have over 40 peonies (of differnt
kinds) planted all over the yard. 
Muscari, here I am rather simple. I have only one -
armenicaum. I know it is a weed but the color mass
display cannot be outdone by ANY bulb that I know of. 
Tulips. Hum. These are more of an annual but they can
creat such gorgeous displays every year. When I get to
it, I will post a picture to the wiki of what I
planted this year. It is a mass along the front
walkway of 500 Tulip 'Maureen' and 400 Hyacinthus
'Woodstock'. It should be a showstopper and I hope I
get home in time to see it (I can never get any good
pictures out of my family).
In the past I have planted masses of tulips everywhere
with only a few returning each year. Mostly it is
becasue they are sliced up when I plant other things
or I pull them out because I want something else
Chionodoxa. The first sight of spring and such a
lovely color. They reseed themselves around pleasntly
and take no care at all. 
Lilies. Who can live without lilies? If this person
exists, they would be a very strange person to get to
know. I have so many lilies that I can begin to list
them here and I am always buying more. I have a
weakness for Stargazers and Casablancas. They are old
standbys that work everywhere. I am starting to get a
wider selection but I am still buying 50-200
stargazers each year. I am trying to concentrate on
getting more species. I really want a large area full
of formossanum and candida. 
One lovely combination that I mentioned in my
container articles is 'Casa', 'Stargazer', and
Pentemon 'Husker Red' with red Paeonia 'Karl
Rosenfeldt', Tulipa 'Carnivale', and Hosta 'Patriot'.
The reds, pinks, and whites provide color all summer
long with foliage and flowers. 
This fall I went through and did a revamping of the
garden. I removed a large area of Louisiana iris,
removed huge patches of Calagrostis 'Overdam' and
several large clumps of Panicum cvs. To me grasses are
a very important part of the garden. Unfortunately in
Ohio, grass has become something to put one clump by
the mailbox. The reason grass is so important is that
mot bulbs that grow in full sun do so in meadows that
over overgrown during the summer by grass that
provides cover. 
Since removing things, I have more room for other
things to go. I wil incorporate more salvias and other
diehard perennials but I want to increase the amount
of misc. bulbs that are there. 
Using perennials as cover is difficult for me since I
like to use such large groups of bulbs together. I
prefer to simply remove most bulbs and replant the
following autumn with more. There are areas the have
smaller groups (or survivors) in amungst the
perennials. The perennials that are used most often
here are daylilies (can never have enough of these
either - I just planted out another 12 varieties this
spring and 75 plants of 2 varieties this fall), hosta,
pestemon, asters, verbenas (planted every spring), and
plenty of weeds <grin>. 
I am working on planting more native perennials over
the next few years. High Country Gardens and Prairie
Nursery Wildflowers has a great selection of drought
tolerant natives that are quite hardy. Penstemons,
Soidago (goldenrods), and others are a few that I am
concentrating on since they come up and cover after my
sring bulbs are done and give color from summer all
the way past most frosts. An unusual combo that I will
be trying this next year is Gloriosa lilies, Penstemon
utahensis, Agastache rupestris, Zauschnera 'Orange
Carpet', and some coleus varieties. 
Ok, now in CA. Well, as many of you already know, the
possibilities are endless. My choices are Watsonia,
Ipheion, Canna, Clivia, and Hippeastrum species. They
can all be interplanted with salvias, lavender,
rosemary, grasses, daylilies, fuschias, etc. 
Well, enough of my babbling. I have a lot more
favorite bulbs and combinations but I don't want to
give away all my secrets <grin> or there would be no
reason for people to hire me. 

John Ingram in L.A., CA. 

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