Fall is planting time for ornamental flowering bulbs. Although I am an herb grower first and last, I always have daffodils and other spring bulbs growing in my garden. There’s something magical about how they show up, year after year, at the time when we most need color in the gardens and fields.
But much as I adore them, there’s one problem I continue to have. Somehow after they’ve bloomed I only keep a fuzzy sense of where they are underground. If you were to ask me in mid-summer where the oxblood lilies are I’d make a vague wave of my arm and say, “Oh I think somewhere around here.”
Those of you who are experienced gardeners will know what the next chapter is in this sad saga. A month or so later I’ll be digging in that same area and – surprise, surprise – my shovel comes up with a cleanly sliced half of a lily bulb. Aargh!
This is why I’ve taken a page from companion planting principles and now plant a low-growing herb on top of the bulbs. I can almost hear you saying, “…and that is supposed to solve this how?”
The answer is easy. Planting an herb over the flowering bulbs serves to create a living marker for the bulbs which have nothing alive above ground for most of the year. The herbs will keep the soil covered and help retain moisture (bulbs in completely dry soil can shrivel and die) until spring comes back around. Then the bulbs send up their leaves quite easily through their companion herb and bloom to my great delight. Here’s a quick list of herbs that will be just right for this:
- Garden thyme, golden thyme, lemon thyme
- Spearmint, peppermint
- Sweet marjoram
- Roman chamomile
- Low growing oreganos
- Winter savory
All of these herbs should grow no more than 6-8 inches – at least in my garden they do. Plant them on top of where you just planted bulbs. Their relatively shallow roots won’t interfere with the bulbs healthy growth. You enjoy having a supply of these fresh herbs through the growing season. Then when spring rolls around your bulbs will perform their magic act and pop up with a delightful splash of color above the herbs. What could be better?