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Time to plan for summer; Take a little time to plant bulbs to bring you bright and bold colours this summer, says Hannah Stephenson.

Byline: Hannah Stephenson

WE may still be admiring all our spring-flowering bulbs, as tulips and hyacinths come into their own, but if you want more bulbs in summer, it's time to start planting them now.

There's a wealth of choice both for containers and borders, from fragrant lilies and dahlias to cannas, gladioli, crocosmia and the Californian firecracker, Dichelostemma ida-maia.

The pineapple plant, Eucomis bicolor, was this year's summer bulb of the year in a Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Centre event.

Its striking pineapple-like tuft of colour, above a rosette of wide, fleshy leaves, blooms in July and August.

Plant eucomis in groups in spring, to rise out of gravel in a scree bed at the front of a border. It looks lovely with cream-and-green variegated hostas and purple heucheras.

While gladioli have earned a reputation as gaudy and difficult to place because their heavy spikes can look ungainly, there are subtle varieties. These include Gladiolus callianthus "Murielae", which can be planted in April and May in deep pots or in good soil in the sun, producing deliciously fragrant delicate white petals with a deep burgundy blotch at the throat, from August to October.

Most summer-flowering bulbs, corms and tubers are sun lovers, so are ideal for patio pots. Some, such as tuberous begonias, need to be started indoors as they are not frost hardy.

Tropical-looking cannas, which produce fleshy exotic leaves and spikes of vibrant flowers from early summer until mid-autumn, can also be planted in pots.

Of course, the jewel in the crown of scent has to be the lily, with its impressive trumpets of blooms in many colours. Buy bulbs as soon as they appear in shops and keep them cold until you plant them.

If you are planting summer bulbs in beds and borders, draw up a design plan before you start. You don't want smaller bulbs being lost among larger perennials.

Some bulbs are perfect for rejuvenating beds where annuals are running out of steam and perennials such as lupins and delphiniums have been and gone. Foxtail lilies (eremurus), which come in a range of colours, produce tall bottlebrushes of flowers in midsummer, growing from one to two metres.

But they have to be planted in early autumn in a warm, sheltered area to protect against strong winds. They need winter cold to flower. Most summer bulbs like heat, so a sunny spot is essential. They also need really good drainage, so add grit or sand to the soil before planting.

As a general rule, plant bulbs at three times their depth below the surface. Some summer flowerers, such as dahlias, will need lifting at the end of autumn and stored until next year. Others, such as allium, will go on for years with no fuss at all..


JEWEL IN CROWN Lilies should be kept cold until planted. Left, the pineapple plant, Eucomis bicolor, is an unusual, bold and fun plant.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 18, 2009
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