The garden rule I broke today is: Don’t plant flowers in a straight line. And I did it for a very good reason: I wanted a straight line.I’ve looked at the scene above for many years, and frequently thought to myself how much better it would be to have that swath of daffodils swing around and continue up the hill. I just happened to have a bunch of yellow trumpet daffodils and later-blooming white poet’s narcissus that were dug up from other locations in the garden needing to be replanted, and I realized I could finally have that curve of yellow and white swing around the corner and up the hill.
So I asked one of my teenage sons to take the mattock and carve me out a foot-and-a-half swath that roughly follows the red line in the photo below.I placed the yellow daffodils down the middle, spaced roughly six inches apart. On either side of them, I planted the narcissus bulbs offset from the yellow, making a similar pattern to that of a five-spot on a die. Most of the yellow narcissus appeared to be blooming size, and while next spring they will indeed look like a yellow dotted line, past experience tells me that in a few years they will bulk up. The narcissus were the offsets from a bunch I replanted elsewhere so it will take a year or two for them to flower. But I can wait.
Because of the angle from which the photo was taken (and my poor hand with a mouse) the red line doesn’t clearly show that the bulbs will be lining the edge of the main path up the hill, which runs through the field and then into the woods. And since I didn’t know this past spring that I would be planting bulbs here this fall, I had to use the photo above to help me guess where the established bulbs ended. If I guessed wrong, I will be moving some bulbs next spring when I can see where they really need to go.
If you’re going to break a design rule, it’s best to know why you are breaking it. I happen to agree that a stingy line of single bulbs arranged like soldiers on parade is ineffective, even sad in a Charlie Brown sort of way. But I am trying to draw a line in the landscape to lead your eye uphill and entice you to explore further. I’m expecting my single bulbs to multiply into bunches, the three lines to meld into a swath. And if I am pleased with the effect, perhaps one day I’ll expand my swath into a river.