There are many examples of these in gardens and parks, however very few are naturalistic (as defined in this text) in conception and their existence is dependent on traditional intensive maintenance. As such, they are essentially outside the scope of this text. A herbaceous vegetation that is relatively common and able to persist in perpetuity with only minimal maintenance input is bulbs planted in seasonally mown grass (Table 6.8). Over the past 20 years this has become a popular vegetation in urban parks, albeit in rather depauperate form, often involving Narcissus cultivars only. Far richer versions of this vegetation type can be found in botanical gardens and private gardens. Probably the best example in Britain of this style occurs in the garden at Great Dixter in East Sussex (Lloyd 1976a, 1976b).
Dutch crocus cultivars planted in grass at Kew. This produces a dramatic but short season display that can be extended by planting bulbs in meadows rather than mown grass
Camassia leitchlinii planted into a mixed native-exotic wet meadow by
the author on experimental plots at RHS Harlow Carr, Harrogate
Here a wide diversity of bulbs have been planted in relatively unproductive meadow grassland over the past 100 years. Flowering commences in autumn with Colchicum and Crocus, then continues with a succession of species through to early summer with Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus and Iris latifolia. The bulbs are complemented by native and non-native meadow forbs and grasses to create an Elysian landscape. The grass is cut as hay in early August and in some areas is given a second cut in September to allow the autumn crocus to display their flowers without too much competition from the meadow grasses. The management of this system is described by Garrett and Dusoir (2001). Bulbs are generally easier to establish in meadow grasslands than many forbs, as they often avoid strong competition with grasses by growing early in the year, when grass growth is restricted by low temperatures (Figure 6.7).
Bulbs are part of many semi-natural herbaceous plant communities and can be used to provide spring interest. Their successful establishment generally depends on integrating their leaf phenology into the management system necessary to maintain the core plant community. In many cases they restrict, for example, spring mowing in meadow situations (Figure 6.8), and interfere with spring burning and other forms of weed management in prairie-like vegetation.