Blazing bulbs for summer; Hannah Stephenson looks at this year's hot bulbs and offers tips on how to plant them.
THE daffodils may not quite be in bloom yet, but you should be ordering your summer bulbs now if you want to add pizzazz to your plot in the warmer months.
Bulbs, corms and tubers can be planted right up until the end of May and can be as spectacular as their spring counteS rparts, in troughs and tubs, or filling up the front of beds and borders, requiring little maintenance but providing a wealth of colour.
The majority produce their best blooms when planted in a sunny spot, although lilies and begonias bloom well in partial shade.
The secret is to plant a variety of bulbs which will last all summer, such as freesias, which bloom from June onwards, zantedeschias, which flower between July and October, and later-flowering blooms such as dahlias and tigridias.
Long after your tulips have faded, foxtail lilies (eremurus) are producing towering spires of flowers as high as 2.5m (8ft) and clumps of Crinum x powellii are producing beautiful pink blooms.
Also in August and September, red hot pokers (kniphofias) are among the most impressive border plants.
In October and November, a welcome burst of colour is provided by Nerine sarniensis, related to amaryllis and sometimes referred to as jewel or diamond lilies because their petals reflect light.
Hyacinths are generally known as highly scented spring bulbs, but there is also a summer hyacinth, Galtonia candicans, which makes big clumps of strap-like leaves, producing white, bell-shaped flowers in summer. They should be planted in late spring.
Lilies are among the most popular summer bulbs. They perform well in pots and if you want their rich scent to pervade your patio, go for L. longiflorum, which will produce wonderful white flowers and fragrance on a sunny terrace. They are best grown in large pots of John Innes compost in autumn or early spring in a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory. Don't put them outside until the frosts have passed.
One of the easiest lilies to grow is the Tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum), which grows to 4ft (1.25m) and produces striking orange-spotted flowers with petals which curve in to make a ball shape. Again they can be planted in early spring in well-drained lime-free soil.
Hardy bulbs such as nerines, galtonia and Amaryllis belladonna can be planted in spring and left to naturalise in a warm, sunny spot.
Non-hardy types such as tigridia, canna and eucomis should be planted in late spring and lifted after flowering, before the first frost. Dahlias, cannas and begonias, which are not frost-hardy, can be started off in pots indoors early in the year.
Other hot bulbs for summer include Gloriosa 'Rothschildiana', a climbing vine with vibrant red and yellow flowers similar to those of the lily and often known as the climbing lily. For best results this should be planted by trees, walls and fences in warm, sunny spots.
Long after the daffodils and tulips have faded, you'll be dazzled by a host of summer bulbs emerging through to autumn.
From left to right, Nerine sarniensis, Gloriosa 'Rothschildiana', red hot pokers (kniphofias), Crinum x powellii, and Tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum)