Bulb folliage: The great cover up

Each spring, a great many gardeners are upset with withering daffodil and tulip leaves that looked unsightly for such a long period of time. What really worries me, however, are the numerous comments folks have made about not planting bulbs because of their sloppy foliage that can spoil the appearance of an otherwise neat and tidy garden.

Spiraeas are great for covering up tulip foliage

Each spring, a great many gardeners are upset with withering daffodil and tulip leaves that looked unsightly for such a long period of time.  What really worries me, however, are the numerous comments folks have made about not planting bulbs because of their sloppy foliage that can spoil the appearance of an otherwise neat and tidy garden.

It would be a shame for any garden to lose these vibrant spring colours, simply because of a few leaves, when there are many ways to overcome the problem.  The most obvious solution is to group bulb plantings in pockets where they can make their wonderful display and then die back without disrupting the entire garden.  If you can camouflage them among other plants, so much the better. Secondly, by adding copious amounts of sand when you plant the bulbs, they will not only naturalize more easily but  will also die back more quickly.  The most creative and effective way to enhance a display of spring bulbs is to plant them in combination with shrubs.  With a little imagination, you can come up with great combinations that give your garden a new look, conceal dying foliage and make certain locations work overtime to keep that colour coming.

Flowering shrubs are a natural for companion planting with bulbs. I’ve often mentioned the combination of miniature blue Iris reticulata with the  ‘Buttercup’ winter hazel (Corylopsis pauciflora), but also try fragrant Daphne mezereum with the crocus ‘Remembrance’.  The lavender tones work magic together.  Winter heather is a natural for bulb combinations because it flowers from November until late April, and then it flushes out with lots of new growth to screen bulb foliage.  Try combining it with some miniature narcissus, like ‘Minnow’, ‘Hawera’ and ‘Jack Snipe’.  Early blooming ‘Star Magnolias’ (Magnolia stellata) could be greatly enhanced with an underplanting of white narcissus like ‘Ice Follies’.  When the leaves flush out on the magnolia, they would nicely conceal the narcissus leaves.  Larger magnolias should not be left out either.  ‘Saucer Magnolias’ (M. soulangiana), that often lose their big blossoms prematurely due to heavy spring winds or rains, would be greatly enhanced by an underplanting of beautiful salmon ‘Angelique’ tulips.  Flowering quince looks spectacular in any spring garden, but a surrounding planting of early double tulips would be a real classy touch.  Try ‘Peach Blossom’ around the whites and pinks and the yellow ‘Monte Carlo’ around the orange and scarlet varieties.

White spiraeas offer all sorts of opportunities with red tulips.  Spiraea thunbergii would be  a knockout with  the early tulip, ‘Red Emperor’.  The mid-season ‘Snow Mound’ (S. nipponica tosaensis) would look great with red ‘Darwin’ tulips, and the late-flowering ‘Bridal Wreath’ spirea (S. arquta) would be nice combined with a red lily-flowering tulip.  Spiraeas are great for covering up tulip foliage.

Don’t forget about broad-leafed plants either.  One of the most overlooked sun or shade loving plant is the ‘Oregon Grape’ (Mahonia aquifolium).  Its yellow flowers and green holly-like foliage would combine beautifully with the soft yellow narcissus ‘Carlton’.  Euonymus ‘Emerald n’ Gold’ and white/green ‘Gaiety’ provide a wonderful opportunity for tulip planting.  Bright coloured early single or trumpet tulips could be underplanted for a delightful effect each spring.  If the new growth was left untrimmed, it would cover dying tulip foliage, and then both could be pruned at once to save time.

Long-blooming, low-growing shrubs like potentillas and dwarf  spiraeas offer tremendous potential for daffodil and tulip plantings.  The red, white, orange and pink blossoms that begin in late April can provide a neat contrast for late flowering varieties of bulbs, or the green foliage can offer a backdrop, then cover for the flowers and leaves.

Hostas and ferns also provide good foliage cover for daffodil and tulip leaves in areas with morning or dappled sunshine.

Frankly, the potential for fabulous combinations is unlimited.  This fall, please take a new look at the opportunities for using your tulip and narcissus bulbs to enhance your existing trees and shrubs.  In doing so, you not only create a new dimension in colour schemes, you can also conceal the foliage that too often can spoil the fresh look of your spring gardens.

Just Posted

GW Graham whallops Ballenas Whalers in junior football playoff

Logan Buchwitz scored four touchdowns for the Grizzlies in a one-sided 40-0 win.

GW Graham grad Ethan Mastin wins Atlantic University Sport football title

Mastin helped his St. Francis Xavier X-Men top St. Mary’s U in last weekend’s AUS championship game.

Sardis Falcon Nick Butler named to Nissan Titan All-Canadian Team

The receiver is one of 70 high schoolers who will travel to Edmonton during the CFL’s Grey Cup week.

Country talent Petunia returns to Bozzini’s in Chilliwack Saturday

Petunia, performing Nov. 17, is referred to as ‘The Savior of Country Music’

Superstore steps into vacancy left by Sears to help every family celebrate Christmas this year

Ann Davis Transition Society has paired with the grocery giant to host a Christmas drive on Nov. 17

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Tubing, skating, light display part of new winter festival in Vancouver

Set to open Nov. 23, the six-week festival will take over Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Centre

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Regulatory confusion over ‘toxic’ stink near Abbotsford school

Officials sniffing out which regulators responsible for enforcing compliance at neighbouring property

Most Read