So how well do snowdrops do in clay?

J.E. Shields
Fri, 22 Jan 2010 12:53:05 PST
Hi all,

Here in central Indiana, we also have clay soil.  I have tried to 
naturalize Galanthus in the lawn.  Mowing is what eventually eliminated 
them, but I think not the clay soil.  When planted in beds -- i.e., 
anywhere without grass  --  they do well.  I grow GG. nivalis, elwesii, and 
a few woronowii.  They do just fine, away from grass and lawnmowers.

Note however that many species of Galanthus are simply not hardy in our 
climate, regardless of the soil.  I've stopped experimenting with Galanthus 
and Cyclamen, since they are difficult to come by, and I got tired of 
killing them.  Still, GG. elwesii and nivalis do really great here.

So do Lycoris besides squamigera:  chinensis, caldwellii, longituba, and 

Hardy Cochicum like byzantinum, cilicicum, speciosum, and a few others are 
terrific here, even in the grass (if you don't mow till their leaves yellow 
off).  My neighbors love the pink flowers in our lawn in later 
summer!  They never complain about the "hay field" effect the unmowed 
patches of lawn give into early July.

Others that may seem unlikely but that do well include Galtonia, 
Sternbergia, most Eurasian Gladiolus, and a few hardier Crinum in protected 
spots (but full sun).  You can't have too many Sternbergia!  They bloom 
after the Colchicum have finished flowering.

That said, it is not a good idea to just stick everything into plain clay 
soil.  Add gypsum.  Add sand.  Add lots of composted leaves, or just pile 
your leaves on top of the beds when you rake them in autumn.

I make beds on top of the clay, starting with a very thick layer of rotted 
leaves; then put on a 2 to 4 inch layer of some decent topsoil; and finally 
cover with 2 inches of plain brown sand.  Plant in the sand/topsoil layer 
(they get mixed when you try to plant anything).  The roots will go down to 
the rotted leaves layer all on their own.  I call it the "Lasagna Method."

No spading, but a bit of hauling and spreading.  Outstanding drainage!  But 
the clay is close enough that the roots can go down into it, if they need 
to, to find water in dry weather.

I didn't invent the lasagna method; I got the idea from one of these 
on-line plant groups.  Try it; you'll love it.

Jim S.
in central Indiana
where the clay runs deep

Jim Shields             USDA Zone 5             Shields Gardens, Ltd.
P.O. Box 92              WWW:
Westfield, Indiana 46074, USA
Tel. ++1-317-867-3344     or      toll-free 1-866-449-3344 in USA

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