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Time to think autumn; The barbecue summer we were promised has failed to arrive. So let's hope for a good autumn and plan our gardens accordingly, says Hannah Stephenson.

Byline: Hannah Stephenson

LATE summer-flowering bulbs such as dahlias, crocosmias and lilies bring a burst of colour in the borders when a lot of other plants are past their best. However, their maintenance can become a chore in the autumn, when many will need to be dug up and stored . Busy gardeners may not have the time or inclination to dig up bulbs, clean and dry them off and store until next year.

However, there are summer-flowering bulbs which are happy to stay in the ground and will perform in subsequent years, says Miek Stap, consultant at the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Centre. Truly perennial bulbs include lilies, Anemone coronaria, crocosmia, liatris and Commelina coelistis.

"Most of these are sun lovers," Stap says. "Plant in spots where there is a lot of sun during at least three-quarters of the day."

Lilies like 'cold feet' in summer, so they perform better when they are mixed in a border planting where other plants cover the ground. Plant with companions with heavy foliage such as Alchemilla mollis.

with which

Anemone coronaria and Commelina coelistis are also both sun lovers. They prefer the soil to be warmed up easily and

Replace which years therefore need to be planted in a more solitary setting, but will soon fill up the border and give good flower display. If the ground is too cold in early spring, they will have trouble emerging.

Montebretia Crocosmia is a very easy plant, but is quite invasive, so be careful where you plant. In more organic and moisture-retentive soil, the plant will grow large leaves but bear fewer flowers, so they don't need much watering. Liatris also prefers drier, less rich soil.

Other bulbs which may come back depending on the rain and snow include Gladiolus calianthus, canna, crinum, eucharis, Nerine bowdenii, tigridia and Zantedeschia aethiopica.

"All these return better when the high in potash.

strawberry beds more than three old once the crop has been h arvested .

soil remains dry in winter. As soon as they are surrounded by wet soil and the frost gets into the ground they will start rotting," says Stap.

There are ways to improve the chances of bulbs left in the ground to repeat-flower in subsequent years.

"Plant bulbs a little deeper than the packaging says, although they will take a little longer to come up in the first year's season as the soil stays cold longer on a deeper level," she says. "If you are not harvesting the bulbs in autumn and would like them to return next summer, it is important that they have nutrients - nothing special, regular fertilising of your summer borders will do."

Allow leaves and stems to die down naturally, because if you cut them down it often disturbs the growing process for next year's bulbs. Those that don't die down until heavy frosts appear, such as canna and crinum, should be covered with leaves or straw to protect them.

If you want your dahlias, begonias and gladioli to survive the winter without having to dig them up, the answer could be to grow them in containers and put them in a frost-free shed or cool greenhouse.

If the plants have had plenty of feed in late summer, it will give them a strong base for next year.

Most will need to be repotted in fresh compost in spring, apart from nerines, crinums and amaryllis belladonna, which should be left unless they have grown too big for the container. And remember, summer bulbs in containers will need warmth to get started again, so don't put them out too early next year.

R e g u l a r ly feed summer bedding in containers a liquid tomato feed is are


TRUE PERENNIALS Anemone coronaria 'Mr Fokker', left, and crocosmia. DRY SOIL PREFERRED Zantedeschia aethiopica.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 1, 2009
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