Bulbs that are stuffed full of pure sunshine!
STRANGE isn't it that, just as our spring bulbs are bursting through the soil after an exceptionally cold winter, we need to start thinking about buying and planting our summer bulbs.
By the way, I am using the 'bulb' word to cover bulbs, corms, tubers and other storage organs that the plant world has devised which can be bought in a dry, dormant form for potting and planting out, just as you did with the spring bulbs way back in August and September. There are some important facts to remember about many of our 'bulbs' that will help us to get the best out of them. Firstly, there are a great number that are not guaranteed to be fully hardy and so will need taking indoors at the end of summer to be stored dry until the following spring.
Many of these bulbs come originally from the grassy plains of South Africa, South America, East Europe and the Far East and therefore need full, uninterrupted sunshine to perform well, but it is important to do a little research before buying them, let alone planting them, to ensure that you are able to give them the conditions they require - it saves money and avoids disappointment! Amongst my favourites are the Alliums that have so much variation in height and flower colour that there will be a species to suit every garden - this might include shallots, garlic and onions if you want productivity as well as beauty.
A modern favourite is the African Blue Lily, Agapanthus, with its spikes of blue or white flowers from mid-summer onwards, although I suspect that, if you risked leaving yours outdoors last autumn, you may be looking for a replacement now after the long cold spell.
Begonias are an all-time favourite for most people and the tubers are available now to select from for summer containers and baskets. You might wish to search out begonia grandis ssp. evansiana hybrids that are said to be hardy in Britain and are excellent for dry shade situations, flowering in late summer. The Canna lily has increased in popularity in recent years and can be divided and started into growth now in a heated glasshouse ready for summer use. cosmos atrosanguineum, the Chocolate cosmos, grows from a root tuber, in the same way as dahlias and both can be potted up now ready for taking basal stem cuttings in a few weeks.
Look out for eremurus, the Foxtail Lily for planting in a sheltered, sunny position - its tall, elegant spikes of flowers are a joy to behold. Of course, the true lilies (lilium) are still a popular summer garden flower, despite the best efforts of the Scarlet Lily Beetle to scupper them. If you are a cat lover, look out for the new pollen free ones - Lily pollen is poisonous to cats apparently!!
Other summer 'bulbs' to look out for include amaryllis, cardiocrinum, crinum, crocosmia, eucomis, gladioli, ixia, ornithogolum, roscoea, tigridia and zantedeschia.
Don't forget to keep an eye open for the late summer and autumn bulbs later in the summer, such as autumn crocus, nerine, schizostylis and sternbergia. To get supplies of these stunning summer additions to our gardens, check them out in the RHS Plant Finder (ISBN 1-4053-5370-0) or at www.rhs.org.uk. Call in at your local garden centre or nursery and see what they have on the shelves.
Call Jacques Amand's Living Colour Bulbs on 01962 840038 for a copy of their catalogue or visit www.livingcolourbulbs.com. Visit deJager's website at www.dejager.co.uk or call them for a catalogue on 01622 840229.
MODERN FAVOURITE: The African Blue lily, agapanthus, has spikes of blue or white flowers from mid-summer onwards, although I suspect that, if you risked leaving yours outdoors last autumn, you may be looking for a replacement now after the long cold spell