Ground covers with bulbs

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

I've recently gotten rid of the grass in my front yard, and planted several tulips. I'm looking for ground covers that will allow the bulbs to poke through in the spring. There are both sunny and shady patches in the yard, and I'd like a variety of foliage colors and textures. I've already planted some veronica, lamb's ears, and sedum (I hope these weren't bad ideas). I was thinking about carpet phlox, thyme, and variegated vinca. Any thoughts, advice, or suggestions?

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Be careful where you plant the Vinca. It spreads very fast and can become a problem.
I have some in an area where it can roam but I wouldn't put it where it could get out of hand.
Andy P

Millbury, MA(Zone 5a)

Ditto on the vinca! We have some as a sort of living border around a small perennial bed and it looks nice and keeps the soil from washing away (there's a small slope), BUT every year I have to pull up straying runners. It's constantly over-running the daffodils and would take over the whole bed if I let it. It isn't fussy either --- sun, shade, poor soil---takes it all in stride.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

What about pachysandria?

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Meg, You mentioned Sedum. Are those the standard type like Autumn Joy that get about a foot tall?
There are some very low growing Sedums for ground cover like "Rose Carpet" that only grow a few inches tall and spread nicely.
I have both and the low growing kind looks very nice as ground cover. I got them from a landscaper as 'plugs'. I had not seen them before and jumped at the chance for a couple freebies.
Bulbs have no problem coming up through them either.
Andy P

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

I was thinking about pachysandra, but I was hoping to do something a little different. I'd really like to have a kind of patchwork of textures and shades of green and silver.
Thanks for the tip on the low-growing sedum--I put in one of the taller ones, and it just looks kind of scraggly there. I'll see what I can find.

Does anyone know if bulbs can come up through carpet phlox? I'd love to put some down, but I don't want to smother the tulips.
Also, the tulips have started sprouting, and i don't see any coming up through the stachys--am I smothering them, or did I just choose a lucky location?

How about bearberry (arctostaphylos uva-ursi)? Or mazus reptans? Does anyone grow them? Would the tulips be able to peek through?

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

What about Lamium?

Burlington, MA(Zone 6a)

Meg....

Carpet Phlox looks great with bulbs. I have never tried planting it over the bulbs, but rather in front of them. If you want to disguise the dying bulb foliage, it is hard to do that in the middle of a short plant. Try putting the carpet phlox in front, with something that will grow up to hide the dying bulb foliage right behind it, and bulbs planted all around the base of that plant.

prairie

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Prairie, That's what I do with the Hardy Hibiscus. They come up real late so the tulips come up all around them and make a nice show then the HI comes up and fills in the center. You get 2 seasons of blooms in the same plot that way, too. I do the same with Stella D'Oro Day Lily, but they get Daffodils. (Similar leaves.)
I wouldn't call hibiscus a 'ground cover' though.
Andy P

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Andy, I agree. Love those combos. Daylillies hiding those ugly leaves of the spent daffs. In a boggy area near my pond, I have Dutch Iris that gives way to cardinal flower (lobelia).
Meg,
I agree with lamium for shade because it will give you something to look at after May. Do you need to keep it short? If not, you could probably stretch your season of bloom (eg coreopsis)
By the way, meg. Hi neighbor! I've lived in New Haven a few times.
Dave

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

Hi, neighbor Dave! Guilford is like our *real* backyard--my in-laws live there, and we head over all the time to Bishop's or to look at the ocean.

Thanks, everybody; these are great tips. I don't think I have room for a hardy hibiscus in the front, but I could possibly try some daylilies. There are some spots where I'm trying to keep it low, so I can try the lamium (or some of the other things I mentioned) in those areas.
Does anyone know anything about bearberry or that mazus one?

Meg

Lexington, VA(Zone 6a)

Meg, the bearberry is a tough little plant to get established as it prefers extremely well-drained, sandy soils. Although, once it gets established it makes a wonderful evergreen groundcover. Mazus on the other hand fills in quickly and is a great groundcover, tolerating a much wider variety of growing conditions including heavy clay soils. Plus you have a choice of purple or white flowers!

I posted this on another forum - a really nice combination I saw last spring at AHS River Farm in Alexandria, VA. This is a large planting of 'Autumn Joy' Sedum combined with the tulips. There was another planting I didn't get a picture of that was even more spectacular - a deep purple lily-flowering Tulip! I thought this was a perfect match because in early spring the emerging foliage looks like a groundcover, but as it grows, the foliage of the Sedum will mask the dying tulips.

Thumbnail by rcn48
Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I agree - excellent ideas. That will especially work well with the tall tulips.

Pennsauken, NJ(Zone 6b)

rcn48,

Thanks so much for posting that image. It's an incredible color combination and helped me solve a problem area in my front yard. Excellent, excellent, excellent!

Annie

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

That *is* a great idea, but what do you do if, hypothetically speaking, you were really new at this gardening thing and kind of did things bass ackwards and had already planted the yard full of bulbs? When is it safe to transfer bulbs? Is it best to plant the sedum in the spring, when the tulips are coming up, or in the summer, after bloom but while the leaves still tell you where they are, or in the fall? What happens if you are digging the hole for the ground cover and you unearth some tulips?
Meg

This message was edited Feb 12, 2006 12:12 PM

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Meg, Just move them over a little. Shouldn't be a problem. I think the best time to transfer bulbs is the Fall.(But I've moved them when I dug them up accidentally at most any time.
BTW, I still do lots of things backwards just on impulse. I would hate to get inhibited by the thought of doing things "right". Gardening is a hands-on, messy, work in progress, IMO.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I agree with Dave, Meg. I've forgotten about bulbs until I went to plant something and dug them up. I never seems to bother them much. Kind of like a heavy sleeper - poke them in the side and they roll over and go right back to sleep.

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Anita, You talking about me or the bulbs?

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

LOL - go shovel some snow...

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

You can move the bulbs at most any time, except within a few weeks either side of flowering. When I dig around, I use a spading fork not a spade 'shovel'. I may spear a bulb but not slice it (neither is good but the chances are less with the fork). The fork is best when digging up bulbs, tubers or young perennials. Unless you want to cut the roots.
With our rocky soil I find the fork makes it easier to open up new ground also.
Andy P

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

Good point Andy

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

What's a spading fork? Is it just that little one the size of a trowel with three prongs?

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Meg, A picture is worth a...........
Don't you just love the digital camera?
Andy P

Thumbnail by Sarahskeeper
East Moriches, NY(Zone 7a)

Meg - Mazus is a wonderful groundcover, and it spreads like crazy. I put some in as a 'lawn' last summer, and was surprised how quickly and beautifully is spread. You don't need a whole lot to start with because as it takes hold you can just dig little plugs up and keep filling in wherever you want it. The one thing I noticed during last summer's drought is that it doesn't like to get too dry. It just disappears in dry conditions. After I planted it I started noticing that the books say it likes moist soil, so that's a good thing to keep in mind.

Another groundcover that I really love is Ajuga. It does well in shade and will spread very quickly. It's easy to propagate, too, so I just keep moving it from place to place. It's beautiful for the foliage alone, but in the spring it gets a 4" spike of bright blue flowers that look beautiful with all of the yellows of the season.

If you end up using the groundcover sedums the only thing to watch out for is soggy conditions. They like it dry and hot, and will rot out and disappear if their foliage sits on wet soil. My favorite is an evergreen called 'Angelina' - bright chartreuse that takes on a red tinge in the winter. I saw some planted in a container last winter that was BRIGHT red. My containers of it are not so bright, but they're still a relief to see out there all winter long.

Pachysandra isn't that exciting...unless you try the shiny variety called Green Sheen or the variegated variety!

Oh, and there's a little Euphorbia that has feathery soft foliage and stays low. I'll try to find out the name of it because it's a beautiful chartreuse bloomer very early in the season.

Good luck, and take pictures!

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Jamie, sounds like you are experienced.
We'll be picking your brain in the future.
Andy P

Lexington, VA(Zone 6a)

Jamie, another new member - welcome to DG!! I think the Euphorbia you're thinking of is E. cyparissias http://davesgarden.com/pf/go/2005/index.html. It's a great groundcover that tolerates even the poorest soil - only complaint I have is it's hard to keep weeded - doesn't form enough of a solid mat to keep the weedy grasses from growing up through it. Of course that doesn't mean it's not growing in my garden, just makes a little more work for me!

The Ajugas are great, especially love the mahogany foliage of some. We also have a pink flowering Ajuga with green leaves - one of my favorites from my Maine garden that made the trip with me six years ago :) It's a great companion with the blue flowers of the darker foliaged Ajugas.
Just make sure wherever you plant Ajuga that it's in an area where you don't mind it traveling because it can be quite aggressive.

Meg, Lamium has been mentioned here and although I'm a big fan of the variegated Lamiums, one you might want to consider is Lamium maculatum 'Aureum'. Brilliant gold foliage with the typical pinky-purple flowers in spring, but the best part here in Zone 6 - keeps its foliage all winter! Of course it gets a little "ratty" looking by January, but at least it's something to look at when everything else is dormant. Although we don't have ours planted with bulbs, this is one combination we have that I love every spring, planted with Geranium 'Terra Franche'.

Thumbnail by rcn48
Lexington, VA(Zone 6a)

Another one we planted last year is Lamium m. 'Anne Greenaway' (aka Anne Greenway). I always liked the silver variegation of L. m. 'Golden Anniversary', but for some reason it didn't prove hardy for us. The verdict is still out on Anne since this is her first winter - keeping my fingers crossed because with foliage this pretty, who needs flowers?

Thumbnail by rcn48
New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

Thanks for the picture of the spading fork, Andy (Andre?)--much easier than verbal description!

Thanks also for the other photos and suggestions. Jamie, do you think the mazus will allow bulbs to poke through?
And as for lamium, do you cut it back in the spring? I have some in a different spot in the back, and it is still there but looking a bit ratty as you say.

Has anyone planted groundcovers mingled with bulbs? I see daffodils coming up through vinca all over New Haven, but I think I've been sufficiently warned off of vinca!

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Would 'Lambs Ears' be considered ground covers? If so I have Daffodils mixed in with them and they do fine.
When I see how much mulch and snow that Spring bulbs can come up through, I don't worry about them. Some smaller bulbs may have a hard time, though. I have some extra early crocus that bloom under the mulch. I have to go around and open things up for them.
Andy P

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

This is how close together the tulips are, just so everyone knows what I'm talking about. And the ground is, well, just mud at this point, so I'd like to cover it up...

Thumbnail by Meg_fw
Pennsauken, NJ(Zone 6b)

Hi Meg,

I'm wondering what that lovely tree is in the backgroung of your tulip picture?

Thanks in advance,
Annie

East Moriches, NY(Zone 7a)

Meg -

I think tulip bulbs would have no problem getting through the mazus (or any other groundcover that's low-growing). And it could be pretty spectacular, depending on when mazus/tulips bloom in your area. Those little purple or white flowers are really cute, and I think mazus is a relatively early bloomer.

Can't wait to see the update. I think that's a crabapple tree in your picutre, and it looks GREAT with the tulips!

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Meg, I thought this link might be of some interest to you.
Dave
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/553164/

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

Yes, it *is* a crabapple tree, and it looks beautiful when it's in bloom. Incidentally, does anyone know if it's okay to prune crabapples now? (Maybe I should put that as another thread...)
Thanks for the link, Dave; I'll go through it sometime when I should be reading for work...

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Meg, You can prune the crabapple now, I did my apple recently, but if you wait a bit longer the cuttings will make a great bouquet.
Wait until the buds swell a bit then put the cuttings in water in a cool place and they may open for you a few weeks early.
Same thing for redbud and forsythia.

Andy P

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

that's right! Good point Andy.

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

I was just looking up some of the great suggestions people have given me here (and on the link dave posted) in the plantfiles, and in looking at lysimachia, I stumbled onto a plant I love! It's not the lysimachia, though. It's rcn48's photo of "Lysimachia atropurpurea 'Beaujolais'"--the cute small-leaf variegated plant behind the title number. Anyone know what it is?
http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/80036/

any ideas?


Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

hmmm - I like..

Lexington, VA(Zone 6a)

Meg, that plant would be Polemonium caeruleum 'Snow and Sapphires' :) http://davesgarden.com/pf/go/81270/index.html. Very similar to Polemonium 'Brise d-Anjou', although the variegation of S&S is white and green versus the more gold and green of Brise d'Anjou. We've had Brise growing for quite a few years - although it does well in the cooler summers of the Northeast, in our area (with the heat and humidity) it has to be planted in deep shade. I liked the variegation of S&S better and last spring we planted it in an area which is only partial shade (morning sun). It too "melted down" during the hottest part of the summer so it may have to be moved to a spot in deep shade.

If you like the looks of this plant, you should probably check out Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven'. http://www.plantdelights.com/Catalog/Current/Detail/06125.html This newer introduction of Polemonium has the same white and green variegation as S&S but also has a pretty pink flush on the new growth in spring. P. reptans is a spreader and not upright like P. caeruleum and hopefully will prove to be a better plant for our heat and humidity.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

rcn - I was checking out plantdelights's hosta collection - lovely!

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