I need some advice. We have a mulched area next to the house which has been
neglected for the past couple of years and we'd like to plant something in
it. I was thinking clusters of some kind of bulbs (tulips or irises) but
those can't be planted until the fall, correct? Do you have any
recommendation for something we can plant there that would look nice now and
through the summer that could be planted around the areas the bulbs would go
into? I'm not really into the look of mulch with a bush or plant every
couple of feet. If you have any ideas of something that can be more closely
spaced, please let me know! I'm in Boston, zone 6a (I think) and the area
is on the southeast side of the house so should get a fair bit of sun.
Thanks in advance,
A very nice combination is daylilies, which can be planted now, and
daffodils, which you would plant in-between them in the fall. The daylilies
are tough, don't need a lot of maintenance, and provide a splash of cheerful
color, and the foliage looks good all summer long. They will spread
somewhat and shade out weeds, although you should mulch them at first and
provide supplemental water if needed.
The daffodils will emerge and bloom first in the spring. You need to let
their foliage ripen and turn brown in order to insure blossoms the next
year, but the neat thing is that the daylily foliage, which is similar in
form and color, will come in at just the right time and help conceal the
Irises are wonderful flowers, and tall bearded irises are the most wonderful
of all, but growing them can be problematic. They are prone to borers,
which are tough to treat, the foliage looks ratty most of the summer, and
every few years they need to be dug and divided. I still have a bed of
them, because I love them despite their shortcomings, but you should know
what you're getting into. A better choice for the less dedicated gardener
is Siberian irises--the flowers are not as stupendous, but still quite
beautiful, and the foliage and habit is a lot easier to live with. You
could have clumps of them in with your daylilies and daffodils.
Tulips (also fall planted) are lovely, but are not as reliably perennial as
daffodils. (Some kinds, like the Darwin hybrids, are billed as more
perennial, but a lot depends your climate, your soil, and the whims of the
gods.) I plant them anyhow, am pleased if they return, and if they don't, I
figure they were still cheaper than cut flowers at the florist.
Zone 6, South-central PA
Good ideas, except I don't think iris foliage looks 'ratty' any time
I've noticed it. :-) And daffs need to be dug up and divided from
time to time, 'though if they keep blooming, you can leave them. All
your suggestions are pretty easy care, and should last a good long
One of my standard cheap sun annual groundcovers is sweet alyssum, from seed.
In the long term, I like mixtures of perennials, with annual fill-ins,
and groundcovers like candytuft, creeping phlox, but away from building
foundations, not plastered right up on the sides.
Remember to keep wood mulches well away from wood siding and such
in termite and carpenter ant country.
Thanks everyone! I ended up getting a couple of daylillies and can't wait
until they bloom. Even just the foliage looks nice. I just picked up
whatever they had at the closest garden center (an orange Stella something
and a yellow one I can't remember the name of) since I had to get them in
quickly. When is the best time to plant them? I'd like to do some more
research as to the best types for my area and get a couple more. Can I
plant them from bulbs (the plants were a little on the expensive side)? Are
there any mail-order sources you'd recommend?
I went to the garden center before I got your note, Kay, but happened to
pick up some alyssum because I thought they looked nice so glad to see they
were a recommendation! Next year I'll do them from seed.
Thanks again for all your help!
I have ordered Asiatic lilies from catalogues which are expensive -
like I must have paid $2.99/bulb. This year I bought them from COSTCO
12 bulbs for $10 something. Which I thought was good price. There
were others about 18 bulbs for the same price I think.
They are absolutely gargeous and come year after year with not much of
maintainance. But I do get disappointed when the brach that is full
of buds gets eaten by the deers.
I did that last fall and only about 1/2 of the bulbs planted bloomed. It
aggravated me, until I figured it was still cheaper than what I had paid
before. Now I'm waiting on the Dahlia bulbs that I bought at Costco to see if
they come up at all. Doesn't look too promising at this point.
As the sweet alyssum grows, you'll see the flowers stay on the tips of the
branches, but you'll see roundish "leaves" just below. Those aren't leaves,
they're fruits. In the fall, you can cut or pull the plants and spread
them on newspapers to dry for a few days, then crunch them up and
give them a good winnowing, and you've got seed for next year. Or you can
do the same in July or August, when they start looking a bit ratty... just
scissor them back a bit (takes about 2 weeks for them to start blooming
again), and do the drying/crunching/winnowing trick. Near a house
wall, you may find it blooming well into December some years.
I like the tall sweet alyssum for a number of uses, and it's harder
to find seed for than the more popular creeping sort, so I save my own
seed each year. It's easy to germinate, and grows quickly.
I also use both types in front of some rock walls we have... the deer
knock stones over now and then, so I tend to stay well back from them
with the mower, to avoid nasty surprises. The alyssum looks good, and
if I give it a little trim with the mower blades, no harm done. Works
around tree roots, too, or over clematis roots (which like shaded soil
but full sun on the top.)
Do you like dahlias? Some of the seed-raised dahlias like 'Redskin' (18",
maroonish foliage) or Figaro (12", green foliage) also do well in summer
over bulbs, and can complement daylilies nicely. For a faster start the
following year, you can save the tubers from the dahlias.
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