Muscari (grape hyacinth) and Tiarella (foamflower) make pretty partners in the shade garden.
I’m planting some new Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike’ (grape hyacinth) bulbs with Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ (foamflower) perennials. They flower at the same time in spring, the Tiarella with spikes of white flowers, and the Muscari with dense spikes of blue flowers. I have this combination in another corner of my garden, and am very pleased with how attractive the two look together when flowering. Since I was adding some new Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ plants to another bed, I decided to tuck some Muscari bulbs in with them. Both of them tolerate shade, so they will do well in this shady spot by the gate at the side of my house.
Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ has beautiful cylindrical spikes of flowers in May and June above intricately lobed leaves. It is a pretty Tiarella, and gets a fair number of blooms, even in the shade. The flower panicles start as dark pink buds in a cone shape, and then open to very pale, pink cylinders. The photo above shows the midway point back in May, with the top half of the panicles still closed. The long stamens in each flower create a starry effect, and a number of them together give the flower a fluffy appearance. I’m planting 3 ‘Spring Symphony’ plants here, in front of an Aruncus dioicus (goatsbeard), and next to some Astilbe simplicifolia ‘Hennie Graafland’. There used to be some Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ at this spot that I recently transplanted to another group of ‘Pink Skyrocket’ in order to make a more substantial arrangement by my birdbath.
Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spike‘ is my favourite grape hyacinth, and the picture above shows why. These Muscari flowers are double, so they are very thick and showy. Of all the grape hyacinth I grow, they look the closest to their hyacinth namesake. I have Muscari planted amongst the perennials in a few different garden beds, since they handle the shade so well. They bloom in mid-spring, in the spaces between the perennials, while the perennial plants are still small. I’ve planted 45 of them around and between the 3 new Tiarella. I think that should balance out the flowers, since the Tiarella are larger and will have more blooms. My favourite grape hyacinth planting in my garden is where there are 100 of them together that make a pretty blue river winding through the other plants. This one will be more of a small, blue pond.
Here is a closeup of a Muscari bulb. If you haven’t planted them before, that top nose goes up, and the flattened basal stem goes down. These ones were very large, which means that the flowers will be large. They had a number of little bulblets attached, too. I try to find the plumpest bulbs for the best spring flower displays. If you are going to plant a number of bulbs, then an online bulk order will probably get you the best deal, which is what I’ve done in the past. If I had known how many bulbs I was going to plant this year (around a 1000 altogether), I would have ordered them, but I kept getting new ideas as I gardened this fall, and bought them all locally when I got inspired with new schemes. I kept getting new whims such as, “Wouldn’t the lawn look great with 500 crocuses flowering in it?”, which I attribute to the number of perfect gardening days we’ve had this fall. Gardeners that get it all figured out back in July, and get their orders in, get the better deals.
Since they are planted at different depths, I dug the holes for the Tiarella first, and temporarily placed them in the holes while still in their pots. Then I dug shallower holes for the Muscari, about 10 cm (4 in) deep, all around the pots. Next, I put the ‘Blue Spike’ bulbs, in groups of 6 to 12, in the holes around the ‘Spring Symphony’ pots. After that I took the Tiarella out of their pots and put them back in the pre-dug holes. This allowed me to plant the bulbs very close to the perennials, without digging into the perennial roots, or digging the bulbs back up and damaging them as I planted the perennials. The ‘Spring Symphony’ will flower while the leaves are still fairly small, so the bulbs can be close to the plants and not be buried under Tiarella leaves when they bloom. As the foamflower plants grow, they will hide the decaying grape hyacinth foliage.
Muscari also grow new long, slender grass-like leaves in the fall, so I have lots of fresh green in the garden right now at the end of September. This is a useful trait, because it stops me from accidentally digging them up, or slicing open a bulb with my shovel as I plant perennials among the bulbs.
I like to arrange bulbs randomly in the holes, but after I took this shot I noticed they were too lined up, so I scattered them more. Some gardeners like to toss the bulbs in place for a random arrangement, but I ‘m too controlling for that and have to carefully arrange them randomly. :)
I’m looking forward to seeing the grape hyacinth bulbs flower so close to the foamflower blooms. In another garden bed shown above back in spring, the ‘Blue Spike’ are only on one side of the ‘Spring Symphony’, and a number of tulips are all around. By planting them at the same time, I ‘ve got the two in closer proximity, so I think the effect will be even better. A tight cluster of lovely white flowers surrounded by blue will be a very fresh looking spring combination. The central Tiarella flowers will be a bit taller than the surrounding Muscari. It will look like the picture above, minus the pink tulips, but with more Tiarella and less Muscari. :) There are actually about 5 ‘Spring Symphony in the bed above, but only one made it into the shot, and there are about 50 tulips. This new section is just too shady for tulips.
Here is a collage showing how they should look together next spring, ‘Spring Symphony’ in the middle, and ‘Blue Spike’ all around.
Now I can’t wait for spring to see the flower combinations. As I look out over the garden in winter, I’ll be seeing past the barren white snow to the bulbs and perennials that are waiting patiently for the spring sunshine.