What follows bulbs

Antennaria@aol.com Antennaria@aol.com
Mon, 16 Aug 2004 21:07:39 PDT
Lots of good discussion on this topic.  The one suggestion that captures my 
attention is growing portulaca over the bulbs... a showy low-impact annual 
cover.  Portulaca haven't much up a root system, so that could work well, plus the 
flowers make a good season-long show until cut back by frost.  And they'll 
reseed year after year.  How about another portulacaceae, namely Talinum.  The 
perennial, mildly invasive eastern USA talinum species (teretifolium, 
parviflorum, et al), have almost no root at all, pull out with ridiculous ease, yet 
provide a flurry of tiny magenta cups all season long.

The issue of "what follows bulbs" invites a couple other considerations:

1.  If one grows a genus like allium, it's possibly to have alliums in bloom 
from early spring to late autumn... natural succession.  In my Allium beds, 
it's difficult to be diligent enough to deadhead to prevent seedlings of various 
species from mixing in, thus promoting the mix of species. So, late summer 
blooming alliums (like A. stellatum) seed into beds with earlier flowering 
allium or spring-flowereing-summer-dormant alliums. With careful planning however, 
it would be possible to have a garden of alliums that always had bloom and 
leafage, from spring to fall, yet without obvious empty spots where certain 
species are dormant.

2.  Share the same space with at least one other plant.  I like the idea of 
underplanting small trees and shrubs with bulbs, and can attest to the success 
of bulbs grown in this situation.  The species of tree and shrub does have an 
important role, as some trees are just too surface rooted to allow sharing the 
space right around the tree or shrub.  I make generous "rings" around each 
tree or shrub, which is mulched. I particularly like to use late-sprigging 
shrubs (like Hibiscus syriacus, rose-of-sharon), allowing the crocus, frits, dwarf 
tulipa, etc., to flower and ripen, enjoying their season, to be followed by 
the shrub leafing out and taking the center of attention in mid to late summer.  

In my experience, keeping large generous rings around trees and shrubs, well 
mulched, significantly benefits the health of the woody plants growing in 
them, but at the same time, provides a terrific microcosm to underplant with a 
rich variety of bulbs; the bulbs able to dry out and prevented from becoming 
overly sodden because of the thirsty roots of the host shrub/tree.  Some trees are 
too aggressive in this manner (such as Stewartia pseudocamellia), but other 
more deeply rooted trees/shrubs seem to provide the perfect symbiotic 
relationship (such as Magnolia, Hibiscus, Chionanthus, Oxydendron).

I uploaded 3 photos to my website taken in the yard today, in the rain, 
showing the Hibiscus and Oxydendron tree rings.  Normally I make webpages for 
images I upload, but below are the 3 individual links direct to the JPG images. In 
the 2nd picture, you'll notice lots of little green labels in the soil around 
the base of Hybiscus syriacus 'Blue Bird'... the labels marking the spot for 
more than a dozen crocus species, plus some allium and tulipa as well. 


Mark McDonough Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States 
antennaria@aol.com "New England" USDA Zone 5
>> web site under construction - http://www.plantbuzz.com/ <<
alliums, bulbs, penstemons, hardy hibiscus, western 
american alpines, iris, plants of all types!

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