Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
September, 2005
Regional Report

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A low wall or row of tall clumping foliage can hide yellowing bulb foliage. A bed filled with a groundcover like jasmine or ivy is another great planting location.

Include Bulbs in Your Landscape Plan

Flowering bulbs can be a great investment in our landscapes. I am especially fond of those that naturalize, returning each year to pay a dividend on the initial investment. They become part of the cycle of seasons announcing the end of winter, the beginning of summer or the end of a long growing season.

They go through their cycles of emergence and bloom, followed by a period where the foliage replenishes the bulb's stored reserves and then yellows and dies back. This final period is certainly not their most beautiful stage, but with some planning need not be distracting from our landscape's beauty.

One of the best ways to use bulbs in the south is in and among groundcover plantings. Low-growing Asian jasmine or ivy forms a green carpet throughout the year. Daffodils scattered in the groundcover emerge in winter to put on their late winter to early spring bloom show and then appear to melt away back into the green carpet. Deciduous fern beds provide a chance for spring bulbs to emerge and grow during the fern's "off season". Then as the bulbs decline the fern fronds are reemerging to take front stage.

Another way to use bulbs is to plant them in annual cool-season color beds. Petunias or viola interplanted with spring bulbs make a great combination. As the bulb foliage declines in late spring the growing annual flowers continue to steal the show. When the bulb foliage begins to yellow it is time to cut it back and remove the cool-season flowers for a summer color planting. Plan your color combinations as you design such beds. Yellow daffodils with blue violas, or red pansies with white narcissus are two great combinations.

Bulbs for the warm season also can be interplanted with flowers. The tall violet spikes of Byzantine gladiolus look nice rising above the yellow flowers of 'Gold Mound' lantana. When the gladiolus leaves start to brown they can be clipped out with the lantana filling in to carry on the show. Taller bulbs such as these gladiolus or bearded iris also can be included in a mixed cottage bed of tall flowers such as penstemon, cosmos and salvia so that the overall mix tends to take attention away for anything not in its prime as each takes its turn in the ongoing display.

I also like to place a row of bulbs behind a line of liriope or other low mounding plants. The blooms rise above the liriope and really show off but when they fade the liriope hides their declining foliage quite well. A low rock wall also makes a great front for such a row of bulbs.

In the late summer oxblood lilies or schoolhouse lilies emerge from the ground with a burst of red trumpets which fade away, leaving their narrow foliage behind. They work well in a mulched bed where the foliage, which declines late in the year, can be covered with a replenishing of the mulch.

Fall will soon be here in our southern gardens. Take advantage of the best planting season of the year to add some long term investments to your landscape by adding some naturalizing bulbs.

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