Spring bulbs under grasses?

donn_(7b-8a)August 26, 2006

Is this nuts? I have a mandala bed in the back yard, which has two main crescent shaped planting areas. They're separated by paths, and inset with keyholes.

Here's a pic during construction, to give you an idea of the shape and layout:

I have two Miscanthus sinensis 'New Hybrids' flanking the entrance to the path that goes out to the left in the photo.

In the center of the closer section is a clump of Baptisia. In the center of the further section is a clump of Hibiscus. There are 5 Blue Fescue, one on each of the inside points of the beds.

I'm going to install 2 M.s. 'Gracillimus, one next to the Baptisia, and one next to the Hibiscus, 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock in the photo.

Needless to say, during the spring, the only plants to see in the beds will be the Fescues. The Large grasses, Baptisia and Hibiscus will be cut to the ground.

I'm thinking about under-plantings that can give me some show during spring, yet survive being overgrown by the grasses, Baptisia and Hibiscus when they come into season, and I'm thinking about spring flowering bulbs like Daffs, Bluebells and other Hyacinths.

What do you think? Will spring flowering bulbs work under large grasses and woody perennials?

Any other suggestions?

I'll be filling in exposed edges with small grasses.

PS..the small bed is my wife's herb garden, and the non-bed area next to it is her flagstone sunbathing patio. The paths are all woodchips, 2' interior paths and 3' perimeter path.

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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

Donn, I don't totally 'get' your design. The picture & your description don't totatlly jibe.(my mind might be a bit fuzzy ~ I am on antihistamines for a wasp bite!) Are those large pie-shaped sections planting areas??

Anyhow the answer to your underlying question is a very definite YES! Bulbs and OGs make excellent partners.

The timing of both is perfect and daffodil, tulips, right through to alliums work really well.
The bulbs look great when the grasses are still dormant AND the ugly ripening bulb foliage is hidden by the grasses once they get going.

Bulbs planted at the base of ornamental grasses get the growing conditions that they love. Adequate moisture in the spring growing season and dry conditions through their dormant summer period. The 'rain shadow' that the grass foliage creates is actully good for the bulbs.

Top dress your bulbs each spring with a little bone meal and they will be happy for years ~

Can you tell that this is a topic dear to my heart? Whenever I give a talk on OGs I always focus on marrying bulbs with grasses!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 11:53AM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

Donn, they say a picture is worth a thousand words so...
I went out and took a picture.
First one is in May. Daffs are finished, tulips are blooming and alliums are still to come.
Second is today ~ no sign of bulbs anywhere!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 12:02PM
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Ahh! The pics are perfect. That's just what I wanted to see. I have to separate and move tons of Daffs, Hyacinths and Bluebells this fall, and now I know where to put lots of them.

Yep. The pie-shaped segments are the beds. They've shrunk down a good deal in height (the pic was a year ago, and they spent the fall and winter covered with black plastic.)and are now beautiful garden soil, on the sandy side. The interior and perimeter paths are now woodchips, and are unfortunatley filled with potted grasses. The overall size of the circle is 26' diameter. The planting sections were built with alternating layers of the sod that occupied the circle, and sawdust.

The history of the bed is here.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2006 at 2:20PM
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achnatherum, wow I love that bed and how beautifully it transitions, very NICE. talk about change through the seasons... mmmmmm

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 7:14PM
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achnatherum how beautiful!

I know it is alot but can you tell me what grasses are in the secobd photo? some of them look so interesting!


    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 8:43PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

I sure can but, once again a picture is worth .... well, you know :o)

A. Arundo donax 'Variegata'
B. Panicum virgaturm 'Heavy Metal'
C. Molinia 'Skyracer'
D. Miscanthus 'Rotsilber'
E. Miscanthus purpurescens
F. Arundo donax
Would you like to see it from the other side?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2006 at 11:07PM
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    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 8:10AM
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juicylucy(z5 IN)

Agree that it is a gorgeous bed, A, thanks for sharing! How long have you had the Arundo?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 9:34AM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

For Donn's purposes I have both spring and August of this bed from the other side.
Donn, this bed shows the tulips at the end of their bloom. Not visable at this distance, there are also several patches of Fritillaria imperialis also just finishing up and a huge patch of Anemone blanda. Earlier there were MANY patches of daffodils. Next, (unfortunately not photographed) the garden turns mauve with lots and lots of tall alliums, the koren lilac visable across the driveway and a large area planted in a creeping thyme. I'm telling you this to give you an idea of just how many bulbs you can plant around your grasses

For Debbie,
The new grasses that you see from this side starting from the lower left;
Eragrostis trichoides & Miscanthus 'Strictus'
Going around the bend, Pennisetum orientale & Pennisetum alopecuroides
Going around from the same end, to the left of the first clump of Rudbeckias is Achnatherum calamagrostis
Further along between the variegated Arundo and the next clump of Rudbeckia is Molinia 'Moorhex'. I must say that all of the smaller Molinia cultivars are really worth while!
Please excuse the dying birch they are slated to come down this month ~ I will miss them :o(

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 9:35AM
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Thanks for all the pics, A. I'm doing some serious bulb planning.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 5:31PM
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Those are wonderful!

I have birch as well - what happened?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 6:08PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

Juicy Lucy, I assume you mean the Variegated Arundo? I've had it for about 9 years.
Debbie, I'm not sure what's going on with the birch. I assume that it has the dreaded birch borer ~ but I don't know for sure. They were all healthy until two years ago. We cut two down last year and the last 4 will be going this month. Unfortunately I have them underplanted with lots and lots of daffs :o( I am going to replace them with some Cornus kousa that I grew from seed. (4 ft tall this year)
And Donn, I've done my bulb planning ~ I have over 1,000 bulbs on order this year! Methinks a little crazy .....


    Bookmark   August 31, 2006 at 8:22PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

As if you haven't seen enough pics of my front garden ...
I finally found my disc that had an image of all the daffodils that come before the tulips

You can also see the large patch of blue Anemone blanda and several patches of Fritillaria imperialis

    Bookmark   September 2, 2006 at 2:15PM
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That's such a nice bed.

Is that a Cactus in that pot?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2006 at 2:20PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

yeah it is ..... strange that it would be out there in April ~ I guess it was out catching some spring rain after being holed up in the garage all winter. Either that or, I was trying to kill the cactus ~ that is more likely :o)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2006 at 2:28PM
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