Gloria Day is the owner of Pretty Dirty Ladies, Inc. Garden Design and Maintenance, specializing in design, installation, and maintenance of four-season landscapes. Contact her at

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After the Tulips
by Gloria Day       #Design   #Flowers   #Perennials   #Summer

Drifts of Heuchera sp. and Acorus ‘Ogon’ now cover the rock garden where Crocus sp. and daffodils (Narcissus sp.) preceded these perennials.

The glory of the spring was upon us. The first crocus had bloomed, winter aconite made a carpet, the hyacinth crowns were showing, the tips of the daffodils and tulips were emerging and suddenly everything burst into color. Like the finale of a fireworks display, there was much excitement in the garden. Ah, spring.

But a few weeks later, the flowers faded, petals fell to the ground, the stems were bare and there was only leftover foliage to watch wither away. Not so exciting.

It’s often painful for a gardener to wait for nature to take its course. It is tempting to cut back the greens, tie them up neatly or braid them into something tidy. But don’t. Let the foliage die back slowly before removing it or you risk taking the food away from the bulbs and weakening next year’s colorful spring display. Photosynthesis is quietly at work replenishing the strength for the bulbs to produce flowers again.

Clockwise: The strap-like foliage of daffodils is easily hidden by the similar foliage of daylilies. • Plumbago sp. grows thickly to carpet the understory of a tree where a variety of bulbs are planted. • ‘America’ peony strides in to take its place in the next garden layer.

Gardeners can design the next layer to help camouflage the spent spring-blooming bulbs’ greens. While the late blooming Allium spp. are making their show, other perennials emerge and sidestep the bulbs to cover the dying foliage.

The large leaves of a peony grow, seemingly overnight, from a tiny fuchsia tip to a 20-inch full bouquet. Masses of dark green peony leaves will create an arch over the earlier blooming bulbs.

Tall hosta and variegated Solomon’s’ seal will become the featured plants after the daffodils and Virginia bluebells have disappeared. • Allium ‘Globemaster’ and German iris mingle with catmint to camouflage the former tulip bed.

Hosta spp., coral bells (Heuchera spp.), leadwort (Cerastostigma plumbago), daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), Liriope ssp., Nepeta spp. and Iris spp. will create the next layer in the garden, and easily will camouflage the bulb foliage as it dies back completely. Be generous with a variety of perennials until you find what combinations please you and distract your eye from the spent foliage.


A version of this article appeared in a May/June 2018 print edition of State-by-State Gardening Magazine.
Photography courtesy of Gloria Day.


Posted: 05/30/18   RSS | Print


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