The tulip graveyard by Elizabeth Licata

Some nice, mottled foliage still comes up from these.

Some nice, mottled foliage still comes up from these Oratorio.

It’s nice, as graveyards go. Colorful bulbs-species tulips, grape hyacinth, narcissus, erythronium-flourish in it throughout the later spring, followed by lush plantings of shade perennials-Solomon’s seal, ghost fern, bugbane (actea), brunnera, hellebores, and, of course, plenty of hosta.

It’s unlikely that the casual passer-by could begin to imagine the failure, demise, and decay that lies underneath this respectable-looking front garden-respectable-looking, given that it is handicapped by continual summer shade and an intrusive surface framework of maple and cherry tree roots. Raised beds? Oh, they’ve been tried; the new roots love them.

This year's model--'Mary Ann'

This year’s model–’Mary Ann’

The only one who knows the extent to which this space is a botanical killing field is the resident gardener. I remember exactly what has perished here-often after only one or two seasons-because I have a digital record that stretches back over a decade: long and expensive lists of bulbs ordered from reputable bulb houses throughout the US. Where are the Tulipa praestans ‘Unicum’  and acuminata ordered 8/28/13, for example? Haven’t seen the unicum since 2014 and I don’t think the acuminata ever came up, through another expensive batch of it purchased in fall, 2014 did emerge in spring, 2015. What about the Tuilpa greigii ‘Oratoria purchased in 2011 and 2014? Yes, I see the ‘Mary Anns.’ I should see them; I bought and planted 50 last fall. As for the ‘Oratorio,’ a few variegataed leaves are coming up here and there.

These sturdy greigii and species varieties are supposed to naturalize very well, unlike, say,  single lates and other, more commonly seen types. But even these stalwarts of the bulb world find it difficult to contend with minimal sun after bloom and the complicated network of tree root interference that cross crosses the property. Ah, well. I keep planting, enjoy what does come up (the most recently planted, usually, with some exceptions) and spare a few moments each spring to remember the dead.

The tulip graveyard originally appeared on Garden Rant on April 26, 2016.


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