6 Handsome Summer-Flowering Bulbs and How to Plant ThemColin Campbell-Preston
Summer flowering bulbs can provide a spectacular show, bringing electrifying colour to your garden through the warmest months of the year. Here are 6 bulbs that you can plant this spring for stunning blooms throughout the summer and vibrant flowers that will dazzle and delight.
Canna lilies are show stoppers with their breathtaking tall shoots of colour and stunning foliage. Look for ‘Pretoria’ which grows up to 90cm with delicious apricot-coloured flowers and bold foliage. ‘Edward Neubert’ provides a similarly eye-catching display with bold orange flowers contrasting with rich bronze-green foliage. Both varieties will offer vibrant colour from June through to September.
Canna lilies should be planted out in April after the frosts are gone and will grow best in a warm sunny place, in well cultivated soil. Lift the tubers after the first autumn frost and replant in spring the following year for endless stunning displays.
It’s worth hunting down some of the lesser known oriental lily varieties for their unusual and eye-catching colours which provide stunning features for your flower beds. ‘Tree Lily® ‘Cezanne’ is a favourite with its incredible double blooms and an intense pink colour, setting it apart from the usual varieties. Flowering throughout July and August, this marvel grows up to a staggering 6ft in its first year and will return with a better show every year after.
Another one to watch for is Lily ‘Dazzler’ – unlike traditional oriental lilies, this is actually a ground cover variety and allows you to create a breathtaking carpet of colour in your beds. A single bulb produces around 10 exquisite heads against a backdrop of glossy foliage, blooming throughout August and September.
Oriental lilies like to have their heads in the sun with their roots in the shade and will thrive in free-draining soil which is kept moist. Before planting, dig in well-rotted manure or compost to give them the best head start.
While some varieties of Dahlia only grow to a few inches tall, others offer gigantic flowers of up to 6 inches across for an impressive display.
Look for sun-loving ‘Badger Twinkle’ with its huge spiky purple-pink and white bicolour petals – this sensational half-hardy tuber has a long flowering season and you can lift the tubers after the first hard frost in autumn, replanting them in spring for displays that just get better every year.
Another sun-loving garden sensation is ‘Ferncliff Illusion’ – this Dahlia has huge double white blooms and pink petal tips with the stems growing to over 5 feet tall. Flowering from July to October, these will also improve their blooms year after year.
All Dahlia tubers should be planted outdoors in April once the risk of frost has passed. They will thrive in a sunny position with well-drained soil which should be kept moist. For best results dig in compost or well-rotted manure before planting.
Gloriosa lilies are one of a small number of climbing bulbs, allowing you to create a stunning display through July and August using a trellis, canes or a fence as support. Look for ‘Rothschildiana’ which offers an energetic red display with spectacular colour – or try ‘Sparkling Jip’ which has delicate white petals marked with a deep pink streak.
You’ll need to start off these bulbs in a 15-20cm pot in the greenhouse at around 60 degrees between February and May. They prefer a light loam mixed in with compost.
Gladioli are a summer favourite but there’s no need to stick to the usual colours – there are so many dazzling varieties to choose from. Look for ‘Gladiolus nanus Atom’, a dazzling deep orange-red dwarf variety that makes a stunning border. This variety grows to 50/75cm and thrives in full sun with well-drained soil. Add mulch over the winter and you’ll see them returning with more blooms the following year.
Offering both incredible architectural foliage and stunning blossoms, Hedychiums are the perfect artistic addition to your summer borders. For a vivid tropical display, look for ‘Hedychium gardnerianum’ (Kahili ginger) with its glorious lemon flowers and giant foliage. This hardy variety offers blooms from August through to October.
Hedychium densiflorum (ginger lily) also offers an extraordinary visual display with shoots of orange-red flowers that appear early in the season.
Both varieties need to be kept under glass or planted directly in the soil after the risk of frost has passed. They will thrive in full sun or partial shade in a humus-rich, moist soil, although frost-hardy, they may require frost protection over winter months.