Plant Watch 2021: Rising Stars and Out of Favor

Every once in a while I write about plants that I’m really liking and plants I’ve decided they aren’t worth my time or precious space in the garden. Today, let’s talk bulbs. They are top of mind since we just finished another spring show of these early bloomers.

First, a thought on bulbs and landscape design. There are really two types of bulbs I like to use in our designs. First, are early spring bulbs. What I look for is short, deer resistant multipliers that flower early. How early? There are plenty of perennials that start flowering in April so March is the flowering time I like bulbs to fill. The second bulbs we often design into gardens are the large, in your face bulbs like Alliums. This post will be about the first group of bulbs.

As I mentioned earlier, I like bulbs that multiple, have a short stature, are deer resistant and preferably a plant that flowers for a long time.

I have Iris ‘Galaxy’ planted in our garden. It was originally chosen for the bulbs beautiful flowers and it’s listed short size. It’s true, the flower is awesome but what I’ve come to realize is that flower is not worth the 3 or 4 days it flowers every year. Life it too short to wait all year for a 3-4 day flower period. Other issues I have with the plant and why it’s out of favor is after flower, the leaves continue to grow. To see the flower, it makes the most sense to plant it as an edger yet the foliage get up to 18-24″ long after the flower passes. It looks horrible while you’re waiting for the foliage to die amongst all the perennial edgers break dormancy. Another reason it’s off the list is deer will eat it. Plenty of substitutions out there that don’t need deer spray, where foliage doesn’t extend beyond flower that have a much longer flower period.

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A nice 4″ plant turns into a 18-24″ in strap of foliage that looks pretty awkward once the perennial edgers break dormancy.

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As a replacement, Chionodoxa is easy to like. Pictured is a variety named ‘Blue Giant’. Short, deer resistant, colonizer and flowers for a couple of weeks. What’s not to like?

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Richard Schipul
Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.

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