The Dragon’s Tail

One of the first flower beds I added at Glen Villa was The Dragon’s Tail, a line of grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) that sweeps across a flat grassy area like a child’s scribble.

 

This photo is from 2007, the spring after we planted the muscari bulbs for the second time.
This photo is from 2007, the spring after we planted the muscari bulbs for the second time.

 

I laid out the shape with a lawn mower, cutting a gentle curve, then altering it slightly to add a bit more movement. A friend named it — he said the shape looked some wild animal, a dragon maybe, flicking its tail. The image stuck and the planting became The Dragon’s Tail.

The area where the muscari is planted drops off sharply at one side — you can almost see the edge on the right in the photo above — so the beginning and end of the line disappear, making it look as if the line continues forever. It switches back and forth in a loose ‘S’ curve that I find very appealing. And when the muscari blooms at the same time as the crabapple trees flower, it is truly a magical sight.

 

Sadly, this is the best photo I have that combines the crabapple and muscari in bloom. So you'll have to take my word for it -- it is spectacular!
Sadly, this is the best photo I have that combines the crabapple and muscari in bloom. So you’ll have to take my word for it — it is spectacular!

 

I wanted a strong contrast of colour, and the blue muscari against the bright green of grass in the spring gave me that. But once the muscari flowered, nothing was left.

To add summer colour to this shady area, I planted astilbe. I chose ‘Veronica Klose,’ a sharp pink variety that blooms in late summer. Here is how it looked yesterday, under  perfect summer conditions.

 

The dragon's tail in August is a scribble of pink.
The dragon’s tail in August is a scribble of pink.

 

The muscari doesn’t bloom well anymore. I fertilize the area regularly and leave the foliage to die back on its own, but gradually the bulbs are petering out rather than becoming stronger. Earlier this year I dug up some bulbs and there are no signs of rot or other problems, but there aren’t any bulblets, either.  Is the astilbe causing the problem? Is there something I should be doing or not doing that will help the muscari to thrive?

Advice is welcome!