Trees as bulb companions

Mary Sue Ittner
Wed, 07 Jul 2004 07:54:16 PDT
Dear All,

All of this talk of trees as companions and providing assistance to bulb 
planted in the garden reminds me of 3 private gardens I was lucky enough to 
visit that used this concept to advantage. The first was the garden of Sir 
Peter Smithers in the Italian part of Switzerland. In his book, The 
Adventures of a Gardener, he describes his philosophy of gardening that you 
are creating an ecosystem that supports itself over time so that as you get 
older the work gets less. (Now why can't I remember that which I recognized 
as a great idea!) He has planted many bulbs around deciduous trees (lots of 
Magnolias for one thing as I remember.) They grow and flower and then the 
trees leaf out and provide shade and interest during the summer as the 
bulbs are drying up and going dormant.

The second was probably the most dramatic and one I will never forget even 
though I only spent a couple of hours there. This was the small garden of 
Gary Buckley, created when he lived in Victoria, Australia. He had moved 
there from Tasmania where the climate was much more moderate and the summer 
heat was not kind to the plants he loved. So he dug out his whole garden 
down to the pipes and replaced all the soil with his special bulb mix. Then 
he planted some fifty plus
weeping advanced alders, cherries, elms, birches and beeches in a winning 
attempt to create a micro climate, which worked. Beneath them he planted 
cyclamen, small iridaceae, smallish amaryllidaceae, and other things he 
liked. The day we visited in October 1998 some of the things he had in 
bloom or just finishing (I'll just do genus to save space): cyclamen, 
anemone, trillium, polygonatum, rhodohypoxis, aristea, orthosanthus, 
tulbaghia, diplarrena, hippeastrum, allium, arisaema, oxalis, clivia, 
moraea, ipheion, sauromatus, leucocoryne, ornithogalum, sprekelia, 
tritonia, iris, wachendorfia, melasphaerula, lachenalia, dicentra, scilla. 
There were non geophytes too, but you get the picture. The one drawback to 
his plan (at least it seemed a big one to me in these days when water seems 
to be a commodity in short supply) was that his garden needed copious 
amounts of water in summer when his trees were in growth. He sometimes hand 
watered twice a day. Still, he made up for that in not having a lot of pots 
to tend to.

The last example is Wayne Roderick's garden in Northern California. After 
moving to live in the redwoods and seeing the perennials I brought with me 
decrease every year and stop flowering, I overheard Wayne talking about the 
way to survive living with redwoods, plant bulbs. Most of Wayne's bulbs, 
like Gary's and Sir Peter's were in the ground. Wayne had planted many of 
his in raised beds, but over time I am sure they (like Gary is Hawaii's 
vegetable bed) were a mass of redwood roots. Redwoods are not deciduous, 
but they certainly have the root action to extend to reach any moisture to 
30 ft (abt. 100 meters) away. Wayne boasted that he had bulbs blooming in 
his garden year round without having to water.

Mary Sue

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