Thursday, May 29, 2008

Planting Perennials with Spring Flowering Bulbs

Over the last year-and-a-half I have been consulting and coaching a gardener and HSNY member in Rego Park, Queens. I make seasonal visits to advise on new plantings to add, transplants to perform, pruning to consider, plant and weed identification, and the like. Not only am I thrilled with how the garden is coming along, but the owner has become really educated and empowered herself, and that is what is most gratifying to me. She had embraced and prioritized horticulture in her own life and every time I visit it is wonderful to see how she in return is positively influencing her neighbors and their gardens. Just the same, questions always arise, such as the following which came in a recent email. As always I am more than happy to further educate and empower to the best of my ability. If you have a garden space and need the advice of a professional horticulturist let me remind you that HSNY does provide a consultation service for residents in Manhattan and the outer boroughs. Feel free to email me for more details at

I did do one probably bad thing Sunday. I couldn't resist some shasta daisies and then couldn't find a sunny spot to plant them so in desperation put them among the tulips (there are two big bunches, which I later realized I probably should have broken up). Now I'm concerned that the tulips and daisies will be fighting for nutrients and water next spring, will they?
Not necessarily a bad move to plant the daisies among the tulips. Yes, you could have broken them up and planted them interspersed instead of in large clumps, but as we have discussed I know how the clumps make more of an impact in your garden so it is fine to enjoy them that way. Often spring flowering bulbs are active and then dormant at different times than many perennials. Up at NYBG they have a fabulous daylily/daffodil walk, a long expanse with the two different perennials planted in large clumps right next to each other. The daffodils do their thing nice and early in spring as usual and as they go dormant for the summer the daylilies really come into their own and then flower through the summer months. Bulbs do not need nor want tons of excess moisture during the summer, but the day lilies end up taking most of the water for themselves so it turns out that the two co-exist quite happily. Your situation is slightly different, but I think the basic factors remain the same. Your tulips have already pushed their flower and foliage. Now we are just letting the foliage remain to build up energy and nutrient reserves for next year. As those leaves will soon yellow and the bulbs will begin to go dormant the daisies will begin to enjoy the spotlight, including the sun and the regular watering you provide. Next spring the cycle should repeat itself, with the bulbs active early followed nicely by the daisies. In a couple years we might have to plant some new tulips as they only seem to last 3-5 years comfortably, and by that time we can plant them in more concentrated clumps between the daisies to keep the look and feel of your garden sensational.

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