What The Helen of Troy is This?

DSCN8693, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

I noticed this in a few gardens around town this weekend. It looks like the flowers have been bent in half and held in place by rubber bands. If it was just one house I wouldn’t ask but it seems lots of folks are doing this. So for the gardeners out there – what’s the deal?

11 Comment

  • When the flowers die, you want to leave the leaves on to feed the plant (y’know, with the photosynthesis), but they can get pretty straggly and ugly looking. That’s why you tie them back like that. Better than cutting them off.

  • -Outmoded practice by unknowing urban gardeners…

    This old horticultural practice is still commonly and mistakenly performed; often in smaller gardens on flowering bulb plants (Tulips, Iris, Daffodils, Amaryllis, Narcissus) after their early Spring flowers are spent.

    Flowering bulb plants, Geophytes, use up most all of their stored energy producing the beautiful blooms we all enjoy in early Spring. Once the blooms fade, the bulb needs to restore all that bountiful energy to survive, over-winter, and to then flower again next year.

    The major energy producing process, photosynthesis, can only be conducted by these underground bulbs through and with their leafy greens above (their solar panels) that remain after the blooms are gone.

    The natural life and growth cycle of bulbs require this proper, natural, and essential process of which photosynthesis is only a part, but vital.

    If you cut or mow down the green leaves you’re essentially slow killing the bulb below.
    The practice of folding over with rubber bands is done simply for aesthetics to reduce the unruly unsightliness of deteriorating leaves which in smaller urban gardens detract from the rest of the later season garden’s limited area.

    Furthermore, folding them over constricts transpiration and the flow of xylem and phloem up and down from the leaves to the bulb and roots below. This practice hinders its natural propagation below as well.

    Today we know this horticultural practice to be outmoded, not beneficial to the plant, and is no longer recommended.

    An alternative for devoted gardeners, is the careful interwoven braiding of these leaves in an attractive pattern that is flat and fully exposed to the sun.

    Simply let the Geophyte cycle run its course. Unsightly and unruly as they may seem in the smaller garden, bulbous leaves should be allowed to thrive in the sun, then brown and fully decompose in the garden soil from whence they came; knowing full well that we will soon enjoy these colorful harbingers of Springtime in yet another season in our nation’s capital.

    -Reformed Somali Pirate…Tantum Erudio Es Solvo.

  • As a lover of Tulips who planted over 1000 bulbs last fall, I never do this. Usually in a month the leaves are about dead and a careful quick tug will pull up the leaf leaving the bulb resting below.

  • Over a 1000 bulbs?????? Now that’s probably a garden PoP needs to take a picture of!

  • whoever’s garden this is is a totally gardening n00b

  • Unfortunately I planted all those on my family’s farm, about a two hour drive from DC. I was traveling during their peak, so I didn’t even get to see them. And my sister who lives there didn’t take any pictures.

  • I never knew pirates were so garden savvy…

  • Way better than tying up your daffodils with a rubber band…just plant something near them that will cover up the withering daffodil leaves as they fade away, like daylilies, hostas, etc. I can’t see how blue rubber bands make the plants look any better!

  • There’s a section in this month’s “This Old House” magazine all about this. I’ve never met a bulb leaf braider, but if I did, I fear that I’d have a terribly feeling of unworthiness. I like the idea of just planting bulbs in pots, then moving those pots out of sight when they start to wilt.

    But I’m lazy. And no gardener.

  • maybe it’s more common in PA, but my mother has braided her bulbs’ leaves as long as I can remember once the flowers were gone. I remember helping her when i was young and feeling really cool because I’d just learned to braid.

  • I planted 100 tulips. The squirrel ate 95 of them.

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