In the garden this fortnight: June 7, 2012

A fortnightly series first published in the Weekend Gardener and reproduced here with their permission.

Naturalising bulbs in conditions of rampant grass growth

Naturalising bulbs in conditions of rampant grass growth

Meadows of naturalised bulbs are a complete delight and a contrast to the highly cultivated type of garden most of us have. But they are best suited to places where there isn’t vigorous grass growth and regular rain. This means that good dairy country like Taranaki is by definition not suitable for bulb meadows. All that grass overpowers and hides them. But we are undeterred. Mark has been working on a bulb hillside in recent years where we have a native microlaena grass (probably M. stipoides) which is much finer and less vigorous than introduced pasture and lawn grasses. He likes the bulbs on a hill because it is possible to get closer and to look up at the flowers from a pathway. He is very pleased with how the dwarf narcissi, species cyclamen, colchicums, snowdrops (mostly Galanthus S. Arnott) and pleione orchids have settled in over the last three years and started multiplying. The bluebells (hyacinthoides) are more robust and build up well in open areas under the trees where we can control the grass with a weed-eater. The exercise is getting the last grass trimming round done before the bulb foliage is too far through the ground with flower spikes formed.

Lachenalia bulbifera

Lachenalia bulbifera

In a different area of the garden, in recent years I have been planting surplus bulbs around the trunks of large trees where the grass won’t grow because the ground is too dry and poor. These are ideal conditions for some bulbs and the lachenalias from South Africa, stronger growing dwarf narcissi like the bulbocodiums and peacock iris (Moraea villosa) don’t mind at all. There is plenty of light because these trees have dropped all their lower limbs over time. It is not quite the meadow we would like with big drifts, but it is what we can manage in our climate.

The Theatre of the Banana

The Theatre of the Banana

Top tasks:

1) Get the winter cage erected around the bananas. They are the only plants we wrap up for winter but we are very marginal banana growing territory and we are willing to work at trying to get a home grown banana crop. I refer to the construction as the Theatre of the Banana.

2) Sort out the compost heaps. We make quite large quantities of compost but at the moment, the waste is accumulating faster than we are layering it into compost piles. We work a three heap system – the heap we are currently using, the heap that is curing and the one we are building. At the moment there seems to be enough for two new compost heaps.

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