Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
September, 2005
Regional Report

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Tulips and anemones look gorgeous in a bed of vinca.

An Indispensable Tool

I'm in love with my bulb planter. I never thought I needed one because I always planted bulbs in masses, and it's much easier to dig a large hole for them with a shovel. However, now that my garden is somewhat established, my bulb planter has become indispensable. I began using it to cut plugs of ground covers to start new beds. Now when I pull out a plug of ground cover, I drop in one or two bulbs!

This way I have gorgeous daffodils, tulips, and my favorite galanthus growing in beds of vinca, gallium, and barren strawberry. As the bulb foliage begins looking tatty and yellowed, it's easy to tuck away under the ground cover foliage. I don't have to go back and cut the foliage since it simply disintegrates (adding organic matter to the bed, I might add).

I've also used the bulb planter to set bulbs in beds of perennials and annuals. Although it may slice through some of the roots of the plants in place, it is a clean cut and doesn't seem to do any damage. I just remove a plug of soil and drop bulbs in the holes. Fill the hole with soil, sprinkle with fertilizer, add mulch, and the bulbs are cozied in to put out roots for the fall.

Planting Perennials Along With Bulbs
I do a good bit of perennial planting in early fall, not only because they tend to do quite well, but also because I can get great bargains at this time of year. I've made it a habit to make the hole bigger and add bulbs around the periphery of the perennial. It's fairly easy to add 10 to 20 bulbs right next to the perennial. I then carry through the theme with my bulb planter by dropping one or two bulbs in with existing perennials.

It's very hard to keep from yanking ugly fading bulb foliage when it is spoiling the look of a bed, even though we know we must leave it to replenish the bulbs. But, if the foliage is hidden from view by perennials coming up around it, there's not as much of a temptation to pull it too early. Spring-planted annuals also make a lovely disguise for fading foliage. Again, use a bulb planter to make holes between the blooming bulbs to drop annuals into. Voila! As the bulbs fade, the annuals are in place to hide the foliage.

I had a happy accident years ago that I've repeated in every landscape I've had since then. I nestled surprise lilies up next to a planting of Royal Standard hostas. The surprise lilies send up their lush dark green strappy leaves in early spring, and as they began to yellow and fade, the hosta foliage comes on strong, hiding the surprise lily foliage. Then in midsummer comes the best part. The lily flowers come up through the hosta foliage followed about two weeks later with the spikes of white fragrant flowers on the Royal Standards. This bed has an entire month of color and fragrance.

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