Bulbs in lawns

Boyce Tankersley btankers@chicagobotanic.org
Thu, 02 Sep 2004 07:03:00 PDT
I came to admire bulbs naturalized in lawns in Scotland during a year-long internship at Threave School of Practical Gardening, run by the National Trust. Nothing quite so spectacular as white  and gold crocus and the delicate snowdrops with the fog just starting to lift off of the (almost always) green lawns. 

Upon return to the sunny southwestern USA with continental climatic extremes (0 - 112 degrees F), those ethereal whites and yellows basically disappeared when planted in the bermudagrass (warm season) lawn. Not to be denied, I substituted Ophiopogon for turf grass. The dark evergreen leaves were the perfect background to accentuate the lighter colored flowers in spring. The size and height of the foliage also complemented the foliage of many of the smaller bulbs. The groundcover and bulbs coexisted for a number of years with no maintenance except for a trim to the Ophiopogon to encourage it to fill in. 

I visit rarely these days and almost always around the holidays. I believe the Ophiopogon has out-competed the bulbs. When exactly over the last 30 years the bulbs died out I can't tell. Still, with perhaps more maintanence than a simple planting and occassional mow of the Ophiopogon during the formative years I suspect a better balance could have been reached. For at least the first seven years the effect was what I was trying to achieve.

Unfortunately, Ophiopogon is not hardy in Chicago.

Boyce Tankersley

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