OYO Design Blog

A core principle of my design philosophy—that morphed into the title of my latest book—is doing more with less. Whether your garden is big, small or somewhere in between, we all have planting beds that we want to showcase for as much of the year as possible. To avoid swaths of bare ground while waiting for your warm season plants to be reborn, why not try a seasonal layering strategy?

Interplant ornamental grasses with daffodils

One of the easiest ways to do this is to interplant ornamental grasses with winter-flowering bulbs. I find daffodils to be one of the best choices, as they are tough, naturalize easily and are large and colorful enough to create a prominent winter display. Smaller flowers like crocuses don’t have the mass to distract the eye from the brown clumps of grasses. It is KEY that you choose the earliest bloomers that work in your area, such as February Gold or Rijnveld Early Sensation.

Pro tip: early bloomers are the fastest varieties to sell out, either at your local nursery or online, so order early.

My Garden in February

My Garden in August


Around the time the flowers are spent and leaves have begun to turn brown, your grasses will have already begun fleshing out. Once the daffy leaves are about half brown and half green, I tie them into tidy bundles where they are ultimately covered by the grasses, making them much less unsightly than when planted out in my garden’s more open spaces. Even though there is still green on the leaves when the grasses begin to shade the dying foliage out, in my garden they still seem to get enough sun to return the following year.

It’s All in the Timing

I generally tell my clients they can trim their grasses anytime between December and the end of February, but for this strategy, I recommend cutting back no later than mid-January. As soon as I do this in my own garden and expose their leaves to the sun, the daffodils put on explosive growth, blooming 3-4 weeks later.

This strategy is much easier to implement if you plant your daffys the same year as the grasses. Grasses grow fast, and most varieties have a graceful fountain shape. That means once your grasses have been in the ground for a year or two, you’ll need a plan to push the leaves aside in fall in order to plant your bulbs. If (like me) you like to add more bulbs every year, I strong advise taking photos of your garden in winter while your plants are still dormant and the daffodils are blooming so you know where to plant. Because if (again, like me) you imagine you will remember where exactly your current daffodils are come fall, I guarantee you won’t.



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