Planting bulbs in turf, was Bulb planting tools

Jane McGary
Sun, 09 Jun 2019 09:17:43 PDT
Rather than the sandy coastal soil Robin has, the soil at my present 
garden is clay. Here, too, cyclamen tubers haven't gone to a deeper 
level, except for Cyclamen repandum, which has a reputation for growing 
deep (Cyclamen graecum does also, but I have it in a sandy, gritty 
medium). Cyclamen hederifolium are coming up in the bulb lawn and also 
in regular lawn grass nearby, and I have the mowing service set their 
blades high.

As for competition from turf grasses, this is limited where I have my 
bulb lawn by the presence of three very large Douglas firs. Their root 
systems and shade keep the grass thin most of the year, and probably the 
soil is drier and cooler too. It would be difficult to plant bulbs as I 
described in the "tools" discussion if the turf were typical lawn 
grasses. The main problem I have with this area is invasion by weeds 
such as dandelion, Hieracium (hawkweed) and in the past 2 years, an 
annual geranium or erodium. I can't use a lawn herbicide for fear of 
damaging the bulbs, but I spot-spray the perennial weeds in summer. The 
immediate drip zone of the trees is grass-free and mostly Cyclamen 
hederifolium, but some other bulbs are showing up there as volunteers. 
Debris shed by the trees mulches this area.

As for criteria in choosing bulbs, I keep them short, except for 
Narcissus obvallaris, which flowers very early and can be mown by early 
June. Because I threw a basket full of miscellaneous bulbs down before 
replacing the sod, there are a few taller things, such as Fritillaria 
acmopetala and Gladiolus tristis, but they just have to deal with the 
mowing schedule. I am concerned about the survival of Anemone coronaria, 
which is so pretty in the later part of the bulb season but may need 
more time to ripen its foliage. You can also look at whether a plant has 
lax leaves or erect ones, since the former will lie beneath the mower 
blades; I think this is one reason Crocus tommasinianus is so common in 
lawns in the Pacific Northwest (check the McClure & Zimmerman 
catalog/website for select varieties, which are much prettier than the 
common pale lavender type). That crocus does self-sow but I can't call 
it a "pest." If you can get the low-growing species of Ornithogalum 
(easy from seed), they're very attractive in grass, but avoid the common 
Ornithogalum umbellatum ("Star of Bethlehem"). The common snowdrop 
Galanthus nivalis might also work. Puschkinia is good, and perhaps some 
Muscari (not armeniacum or azureum, which are invasive here). I have a 
few of the small autumnal Colchicum species in grass, mostly Colchicum 
boissieri, which spreads horizontally.

When you see bulbs in their native habitats, many of them coexist with 
grasses and grazing animals. A couple of weeks ago I saw huge flocks and 
herds being moved up overland to the alpine meadows in Georgia, where 
great populations of spring bulbous plants were flowering. Many of the 
plants are probably avoided by grazers, however, being toxic (e.g. 
Galanthus, Scilla (sensu lato), Trollius). Too bad Fritillaria 
worldwide, and Calochortus in North America, are not as poisonous.

Jane McGary, Portland, Oregon, USA

On 6/9/2019 6:31 AM, Hansen Nursery wrote:
> When planting bulbs in turf, how do you determine which bulbs can handle the
> conditions involved, not so much moisture, but competition from the turf
> itself?  I notice that my cyclamen, at least under the sandy soil conditions
> I have, stay on top of the soil and don't root in sometimes. (I just threw
> out seed and waited to see what happened.)
> What criteria do you use, especially in the Pacific Northwest?  I'm assuming
> some bulbs can't handle the conditions we have, others are too big and some
> become pests...
> Robin
> Hansen Nursery
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