This was my first spring working at the inn and it was a beautiful one. Despite the numerous amounts of rainy days we had, spring flowering bulbs were everywhere adding pops of color all over the property. I can remember the feelings of excitement and anticipation as the first purple crocus peeked through and flowered splendidly; despite the falling snow, assuring spring was coming.
But now the heat of summer is striking full blast (90’s earlier this week), frost is no longer a threat, and the annuals are planted and stealing the show in the gardens. Yet, evidence of spring flowering bulbs is still present as their foliage is beginning to yellow and slowly die back. Even though the appearance may be unsightly, it’s important to leave that foliage alone. Don’t cut it off, tie/knot it, or braid it. All common practices done in gardens, tasks I remember doing with my grandma in her gardens until I learned otherwise in college. Bulbs need those green leaves to soak up the sun and make carbohydrates which are then stored for strength of flowering the following year. Cutting foliage too soon deprives any photosynthetic capability, tying and/or braiding reduces optimal exposure of the leaves to sunlight. Once the leaves begin to yellow/brown in appearance, then removal is appropriate.
If you’ve tied, braided, or cut off green foliage previously, a sight you just can’t stand to see in your garden, here are a few tips to try alternatively:
- Begin by simply deadheading (removing faded flowers by pinching or cutting off) bulbs once they’ve finished flowering. Not only does it tidy appearances, it’s actually beneficial for the bulbs because all “goodies” can go straight to the bulb versus old flowers/seed.
- Plant bulbs amongst perennials, annuals, and/or groundcovers. This planting technique reduces maintenance in your garden! As perennials/groundcovers push new growth in spring, the bulbs continue to fade back into the perennial/groundcover growth which eventually covers the yellow/brown leaves and eliminates clean up. Annuals distract the eye and disguise the fading foliage as well.
- Otherwise, leave bulb foliage alone for the sake of knowing bulbs need this time to soak up the sun’s rays for another beautiful display in your garden the following spring.