In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
April, 2004
Regional Report

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1398

Boxwoods and tulips make a classic combination.

Tulips: Play by Play

Some garden combinations are classics. Tulips and boxwoods go together like strawberries and cream. All winter the glossy evergreen boxwoods frame the planting area, providing structure, form, shape, and texture. An additional outline of brick paving reinforces the symmetry of the design. The narrow but functional path adds charm and further seasonal interest throughout the winter snows and early spring rains.

Flowers Unfolding
The central, apparently empty, planting area is mulched for neatness, with the mulch protecting the soil from rain and wind erosion. The mulch also replenishes the soil over time as it rots down. In spring, all across the bed we begin to see bits of green emerge. A regular pattern becomes apparent with about 4 to 6 inches between foliage tips. The smooth slightly twisting foliage is a frosty blue-green color highlighted against the dark mulch.

We appreciate the firm dry brick under our feet on our daily anticipatory garden visits. Over the coming weeks we watch the foliage elongate slowly. We eagerly greet the appearance of plump flower buds in the center of each set of leaves. Finally, almost by magic, the stems leap upward and on a warm, spring day the buds burst open. Tulips!

For now, the evergreens are forgotten. They slip quietly into the background, yet their unassuming presence deftly frames our focus on the nodding carpet of jewel-toned blooms. The flowers are so thick we barely notice the mulch below them, or the bricks beneath our feet.

But tulips only bloom for so long, a week or two at best. Too soon the focus will be turned on an unattractive mass of shriveling, yellowing tulip foliage.

Annuals Continue the Show
The gardener has a choice: dig up the tulip bulbs "in the green" and replant them elsewhere, remove and discard the bulbs altogether, or wait it out. I prefer to plant annual flowers, either small transplants or seeds, in between the dying foliage. This is a compromise, true, but more economical and less disrupting to the garden than replanting with tulip bulbs every fall. And since the foliage has flourished and been allowed to grow fully and then die back naturally, our bulbs come back the next spring ready to bloom all over again.


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