Making it better, color to green

I learned something last fall when I created my first planting beds for spring-flowering bulbs: that bulbs are easy! This spring I also learned that it's fantastic seeing those tufts of green emerge from the cold ground, followed by uplifting splashes of color!

I'm learning something else now though: that foliage doesn't look too great as it feeds the bulbs and slowly declines. So I did something about it.


It was actually my plan all along to put flowering annuals into these beds this year, since I knew once the foliage faded they'd be empty.

So a couple of weeks ago -- before the Mother's Day rush at the local nurseries -- I loaded up on various annuals:

I chose a variety of plants based on several criteria: deer resistance (proven or imagined), color, attractiveness to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, height, ties to childhood memories -- you know, the typical stuff.

I chose a couple of different Salvias:

I typically have lots and lots of Salvia coccinea (the red-flowered Salvias) in my yard later in the summer, but I wanted something that the hummers could enjoy now.

Some sun-loving Coleus (not the varieties that like shade):

and a few other things like Marigolds, Cosmos, Zinnias, Mirabilis (4 o'clocks), and snapdragons.

Then I got to work planting them in between the various bulbs. The soil here is freshly-amended clay, so is quite heavy still:

So I didn't bother trying to backfill the holes with the soil I removed. Instead, I used potting mix:

This will give the roots some nice loose stuff to bite into. Will they eventually make it into the thicker soil surrounding these planting pockets? I don't know, but I have a feeling they'll do just fine.

I know that these beds look so much better with little spots of color throughout:

In a month or so the daffodil and tulip foliage should be gone, and these annuals will have the stage to themselves. I planted fairly close together, and am hoping they grow vigorously and form a mass of color.

Since these are mainly heat-lovers and we'll be approaching 100F (38C) this weekend, I don't think I'll have to wait too long to find out.

I'll check back in on these in another few weeks, but in the meantime I will be watching the tall plants grow shorter and the short plants grow taller. A successful garden is all about balance, right?


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (May 24, 2012 at 10:54 AM)  

Great solution. I don't like the look of dying foliage either. When I was in Germany, I caught my cousin's husband literally ripping out their tulip leaves, which I didn't think was a good idea because the bulbs need every bit of energy the leaves are able to produce.

sandy lawrence –   – (May 24, 2012 at 1:40 PM)  

So, four o'clocks aren't a nuisance, I'm guessing, where you are, Alan? I'm still trying to get rid of them, six years later. Every now and again, one will try to pop up. Very invasive where I am in TX.
Your solution looks great. Those fading and ugly blades are the only downside to bulbs, but they're totally worth it for the spring show.

M  – (May 25, 2012 at 11:42 AM)  

Alan, Sandy is correct Mirabilis jalapa is borderline native here in New Jersey, something a bird perhaps eats the seeds here and it self seeds vigorously. Tubers can last decades with annual above ground growth from May till 1st frost.

Alan  – (May 25, 2012 at 11:59 AM)  

M: interesting (I assume you meant "invasive", not "native"). I'll have to keep an eye on it then, but as far as I know it's not a problem here. We're a zone colder than you though, and sometimes that's all it takes to make a plant "behave".

Christine @ The Gardening Blog  – (May 25, 2012 at 4:29 PM)  

It already looks lovely with the greenery and few bits of colour, and is going to look just great once they are flowering. I'm going to do the same here. I didn't enjoy the dying bulb leaves either last year. As you are 6 months ahead of us (verrrry cold here this weekend), I will be watching to see how your plan works out.

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