planting in pipes

Jane McGary
Sun, 07 Jun 2009 10:15:30 PDT
Diane's new project reminds me of a very effective feature the late 
Molly Grothaus had in her garden, made entirely of flue tiles stacked 
up in tiers against a slight slope. She grew a large range of bulbs 
in them. I particularly remember the species tulips. She would put 
old roof shingles on top of them in summer.

This is a good situation for bulbs that need protection from rodents 
(be sure to put some heavy-duty groundcloth or similar barrier under 
the area before putting in the soil), and also for those that don't 
need to be lifted and divided very often, because it would be awkward 
to do so (remember that they'll pull down as deep as they can). I'd 
also choose species that are well adapted to the amount of winter 
rainfall in the area, because it would be difficult to protect the 
growing plants against excessive wet, which can be especially 
problematic when frost is interspersed with periods of rain.

Being able to segregate the species for special protection is always 
helpful. For example, if you have Sternbergia species, you can put 
some row cover over them at this time of year to prevent access by 
bulb flies. If you have some crocuses you want to protect against 
digging predators, you can cut small screens to fit. If Diane's 
garden is open to deer, I'd surround a special bulb collection with 
some extra protection; this year I lost many, many floweriing stems 
to deer that began to stick their heads right into the frames, 
apparently, and eat the highly nutritious scapes, flowers, and 
capsules at night. Next year I'll have to figure out how to drop some 
bird netting completely over the openings to prevent this. This year, 
no seeds except from the amaryllids and alliums. The arrangement 
would not deter rabbits, which even hopped into my bulb frames (which 
are high) this year. Yesterday I came across the peculiar Latin 
adjective cuniculosa (applied by Catullus to Spain), which means 
"full of rabbits," so I can now call the area where I live "Estacada 
cuniculosa." I'm repeatedly tempted to adopt a couple of greyhounds.

This could be a very attractive feature. However, any time you have a 
dedicated bulb feature, you either have to plan it so most of the 
plants bloom around the same period, or you'll have a lot of 
withering leaves along with the flowers of the later-blooming sorts 
-- the situation in my bulb frames right now, where the themids 
(Brodiaea etc.; at least, the ones that didn't get eaten by the 
rabbits and deer) are in bloom among many plants that are going 
dormant. There is a certain naturalistic quality to this, but it's 
not pleasing otherwise.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

At 09:37 AM 6/7/2009, you wrote:
>I'd like some ideas about what to plant in a new project.
>A neighbour left a pile of new red clay drain tiles (12 cm across by
>30 cm long) at the roadside, with a sign saying "FREE".  I took them
>all because I thought they would be good for growing bulbs.  I now
>have them standing up, braced with some slightly larger red clay
>chimney flues (20 cm square by 30 cm long), ready for planting.
>However, I'm not sure which of my many pots of bulb seedlings should

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