Mark's Design Notes
About Mark

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Allium ‘Mount Everest’ with Pink Tree Peonies. In the Crescent Garden of the Green Bay Botanical Garden in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Director of Horticulture Mark Konlock combines white Allium 'Mount Everest' with large-flowered pink tree peonies. In a complementary bed across the walkway, hundreds more Allium 'Mount Everest' are planted among variegated Solomon's seal. The bed is capped by a canopy of pink, weeping crabapple blooms. Credit: Mark Konlock/Colorblends.com

Allium ‘Mount Everest’
with Pink Tree Peonies

Combo: In the foreground, white Allium ‘Mount Everest’ with pink Paeonia ‘Hanakisoi’ (a large-flowered tree peony). To the rear: a complementary swath of white alliums, this time with variegated Solomon’s seal, under a canopy of weeping crabapple.

Location: Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5a

Notes: These beauties dominate in their late spring-early summer timeframe. After they fade, a completely different summer show takes over. In the photo, emerging perennials play the role of understory. Soon they will take over the bloom scene. The mix includes Geum, variegated Solomon’s seal, baptisia, purple coneflowers, phlox, spiny bear’s breeches (Acanthus spinosus) and more.

As the summer perennials gain size, they mask the allium’s fairly broad, unattractive foliage as it proceeds through die-back. In our naturalized bulb plantings, we leave bulb foliage in place to die-back naturally after bloom. During this six to eight stretch, the declining foliage plays a role in recharging the bulbs with energy for next spring’s bloom.

A good rule of thumb with alliums is don’t be skimpy. We group 100 or more ‘Mount Everest’ in any sweep. I like to “dot” the alliums throughout perennials so their ball-shaped blooms float above the bed.

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Subtle Repetition of ColorA late spring bloom combination at Green Bay Botanical Garden pairs white Allium 'Mount Everest' with yellow Baptisia 'Lemon Meringue' and black-crimson Paeonia 'Thunderbolt' (tree peony). GBBG Director of Horticulture Mark Konlock says, "The flowers are quite different in form and color, but surprisingly pleasing in combination due to subtle repetition of the yellow color of the baptisia flowers and the anthers of the peonies and the alliums." Credit: Mark Konlock/Colorblends.com

Subtle Repetition of Color

Combo: White Allium 'Mount Everest' with yellow Baptisia Decadence© ‘Lemon Meringue’ (false indigo) and black-red Paeonia 'Thunderbolt' (tree peony).

Location: Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5a

Notes: Here you see another combination of Allium 'Mount Everest' with perennials in the GBBG's Crescent Garden. The distinctive umbel flower architecture of alliums works well as a contrast to the spike architecture of baptisia. The flowers are quite different in form and color, but surprisingly pleasing in combination due to the subtle repetition of the yellow color of the baptisia flowers and the anthers of the peonies and the alliums.

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Pink Tulips and Crabapple Blossoms. Playing with layers of color is an effective way to amplify the impact of spring bloom, says Mark Konlock, director of horticulture at Green Bay Botanical Garden in Wisconsin. His pairing of two-toned pink tulips with similarly two-toned pink crabapple blossoms heightens the beauty of each. Flower scale also plays in, says Konlock. The large tulip flowers are more dramatic against the backdrop of small crabapple blossoms. Credit: Mark Konlock/Colorblends.com


Pink Tulips and Crabapple Blossoms

Combo: Tulipa ‘Foxtrot’ with Malus sargentii 'Candymint' (Sargent crabapple).

Location: Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5a

Notes: I find it especially elegant to color echo when underplanting spring-flowering trees and shrubs with spring bulbs. For this effect, nothing beats the exuberance of tulips. Here two-toned pink Tulipa ‘Foxtrot’ takes the impact of similarly colored ‘Candymint’ Sargent crabapple up a notch. Under a softer pink crabapple canopy, I like pale pink Tulipa ‘Angelique’ or rosy Tulipa ‘Aveyron’.

With massed beds of a single tulip variety, I lean towards double-flowered tulip varieties like ‘Foxtrot’, ‘Angelique’ and ‘Aveyron. Double flowers last longer in the landscape since they do not have the sexual parts to produce seed; other types drop petals once fertilization occurs and energy is put into seed production

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Tulip Promenade "Big, colorful spring bulb displays are crowd-pleasers,” says Mark Konlock. Each fall, he and his team plant Colorblends tulip blends in GBBG’s most prominent beds. Here the pink, white and purple tulips of Colorblends Tulip Blend Much Niceness® anchor one side of a promenade, while Adirondack crabapple trees hold down the other. Credit: Mark Konlock/Colorblends.com


Tulip Promenade

Combo: Malus ‘Adirondack’ (Adirondack crabapple) and Colorblends Tulip Blend Much Niceness® (mid-season bloom; a three tulip blend in pink, white and purple)

Location: Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5a

Notes: Given our six month winter, we have a special affinity for colorful spring bulb flowers. What I love myself is their elegant form – and that they’re so easy to grow. Just plant them in fall, in spring they come up. You get an explosion of color with very little work involved for such a spectacular show. We keep planting more. I’d say we’re addicted to them.

In our big displays, we often showcase Colorblends tulip blends in combination with flowering crabapples. As flowering shrubs can bloom for weeks on end, you want to choose tulips that are likely to keep them company for most of that time. That’s another reason for Colorblends; extended bloom is their specialty.

In fall, we plant tulip blends densely for a blanket of color in spring. After bloom the first spring, we re-use the blends in naturalized areas. We do this by lifting and drying the bulbs, then replanting them in a secondary site that fall. It’s an easy process and, since the tulips are already blended, there’s no confusion in knowing which bulbs are what. Once replanted they’ll stay put to rebloom for several more years.

We plant a lot of tulips. Deer and other animals aren’t that big a problem for us because we treat tulip beds with deterrents. In fall we spray the ground with Liquid Fence, then use a hand-spreader to cast dry Milorganite® over the ground. In spring, we reapply the Liquid Fence® weekly till bloom. Chipmunks will eat some bulbs and move the occasional bulb. But people seem to love those misplaced bulbs and give critters credit for fun design input.

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Colorblends Tulip Blend Pinotage™ and Perennials. Spring color pleases strollers along a popular walk through the Green Bay Botanical Garden. Highlight of the planting scheme is Colorblends Pinotage™ Tulip Blend which features six tulip varieties in shades of maroon, pink, mauve-pink, burgundy, and pink flushed with green stripes. “Pinotage provides weeks of color in mid-late to late bloom season,” says Mark Konlock. He planted the tulips in informal clusters among early emerging perennials to create a loose band of color along a gentle woodland swale. On the opposite side, late-blooming daffodils are seen. Credit: Mark Konlock/Colorblends.com

Tulip Blend Pinotage™
and Perennials

Combo: Colorblends Pinotage™ Tulip Blend with dark-leaved Ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford’ (leopard plant), purple-flowered moss phlox, large-leaved Japanese butterbur, yellow marsh marigold, Camassia, and various daffodils

Location: Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5a

Notes: Colorblends Pinotage is a versatile tulip blend of six varieties that is somehow both delicate in beauty and robust in performance. Its bloom time is mid-late through late season. We plant the bulbs in informal clusters among early blooming perennials. As the early perennials get bigger, and others join in, they mask the bulb foliage during die-back.

This is a popular walk that approaches a bridge over a soggy swale where storm runoff water drains through part of the garden. I wanted to see color here spring through late summer, always with lush foliage. In the swale, I planted damp-loving, large-leaved summer perennials plus two unusual spring bloomers that love sun and thrive in damp soil: yellow-flowered marsh marigold and blue-flowered camassia. Just a bit higher, and a whole lot drier, are the tulips, daffodils and other perennials. Overall, the effect is lively and charming.

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Naturalized Spring Bulbs in No Mow Grass. Spring-blooming flower bulbs planted into the grass transform a rough, un-mown area situated just outside the entrance to the Green Bay Botanical Garden in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “Previously, this high profile area set the wrong tone, especially in spring, as visitors arrived,” says Mark Konlock. “To turn things around, we planted a spring wildflower meadow. The bulbs are positioned randomly, as if spread by nature. Visitors love the effect.” Credit: Mark Konlock/Colorblends.com

Naturalized Spring Bulbs
in No Mow Grass

Combo: Tulipa ‘Tinka’, Narcissus ‘Hawera’ and Muscari armeniacum (grape hyacinth) with no mow grass mix.

Location: Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay, Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5a

Notes: For a meadow effect, definitely use enough bulbs to make an impact. And choose types that are likely to perennialize or naturalize, such as species tulips, miniature daffodils, and specialty bulbs.

For a site like this, we use a quick, easy technique to plant handfuls of bulbs in larger holes. Use a shovel to dig up a chunk of sod and throw the bulbs in, then replace the sod and tamp down. For a natural look, position the holes randomly, some closer together than others. Place varying numbers and types of bulbs in the holes. Some groupings should be all of a kind, as if spread by nature. Fall rains initiate rooting. In spring, the flowers come up in bulb bouquets.

In a full sun setting with well-drained soil, bulbs like these can naturalize and multiply over time. Always let the bulb foliage die down before any mowing so that the bulbs can rejuvenate to bloom the next year. Better yet, plant in no-mow grass and just let the whole works take care of itself.