Friday, March 19, 2010

Hiding Narcissus Foliage

Narcissus are among the most popular of fall bulbs.  Their cheerful trumpets announce the best of news:  spring is here!  So gardeners tuck them in pots and baskets, planters, bulb and perennial beds, naturalize them in woodlands and lawns.

But for narcissus to return year after year, the leaves must be allowed to remain until they dry in order to build up food reserves in the bulbs.  So unsightly foliage presents a bit of a problem.

If planted in the lawn, there's not much to be done other then let the grass grow until the narcissus leaves brown.  But the ingenious gardener can come up with other planting schemes to hide them.

Here are a few solutions I've observed:

Plant them in ground cover beds.  Liriope, for example, is a fine companion.   It benefits from mowing in late winter, removing worn foliage and allowing room for fresh leaves to sprout.  But if inter-planted with narcissus, the bulbs will sprout and flower before the liriope re-grows.  As the liriope foliage lengthens, it will cover the browning narcissus.

Inter-planting narcissus with daylilies achieves much the same.  The bulbs can also be tucked among pachysandra, vinca, hedera, iris and many other ground cover perennials.

Grow narcissus beneath deciduous shrubs.  Long before the shrubs leaf out, the narcissus will sprout and flower, benefiting from the sunlight allowed through the bare shrubs.  As the shrubs green, the narcissus leaves will be hidden.

Establish drifts of narcissus in natural beds beneath deciduous trees.  Last summer's leaves on the woodland floor make a lovely backdrop to narcissus' spring green.  When the narcissus are spent, they won't be noticeable among the leaf mulch.

Simple ideas such as these provide easy solutions to common aesthetic problems.

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