Summer Bulbs: Colour In Every Corner
Bulb planting season is upon us and this is always a great way to fill up the gaps, big or small, at great value. You can plant up your window boxes and baskets, big containers or borders at a lesser cost.
Here are a few tips to make the most of them, for a summer full of colour.
Bulbs for pots and containers
Begonias: timeless flowers
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Begonias are extremely easy to grow and very rewarding. It is a great choice for busy people who don’t have too much time for gardening, watering and deadheading. Indeed, the begonias are undemanding.
Plant the tubers in spring, hollow part facing up, after the last frosts. When planting, use a well-drained compost as bulbs dislike heavy soils. Begonias will flower for months from May right through the summer into the Autumn, until the first frost.
If you wish to keep your bulbs from one year to the next, you should lift them in autumn and store them over winter in a dry, cool place.
Photo by Timo C. Dinger on Unsplash
Dahlias are extravagant and deserve a spot where they can be showcased. If you don’t have space in the ground, there are beautiful, shorter varieties, ideal for your pots (at least 30cm in diameter). Why not try ‘Aspen’ with its pure white flowers and twisted petals. Unless you prefer the tightly formed pompom varieties.
Either way, they are extremely decorative whether it is in pots, the ground or vases.
Cannas for drama
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Looking for something dramatic? Grow cannas! The foliage is just as outstanding as the flowers. Like smaller banana leaves in shades of green, purple-bronze or striped, this tropical beauty will reward you with its intense colours and fiery flowers from June to October.
Note that they are tall, however, so plant them in a sheltered area, protected from strong winds.
Plant them in April/May in a good, moisture-retentive compost, in large pots (start with a 20cm pot at least).
Perennials for your borders
Buying clumps of roots allows you to get a well-developed plant, ready to be planted out in Spring. The most common varieties offered are the peonies and agapanthus.
Paeonia: luxurious and delicate
The peony rose is an absolute classic. Ruffled petals, pastel shades or deep reds for full-blown flowers, unrivalled for their vase qualities. These very large blooms are an eye-catcher in early summer, opening the warm season with scented flowers.
When planting your clump, choose your spot carefully as peonies dislike being moved and it can affect the flowering. They prefer a position in full sun, in well-drained soil, neutral to alkaline.
Do not plant too deep and add right away (or once the foliage as started to sprout) a sturdy plant support. Peony flowers are quite large and they can also be heavy and will benefit from this little extra help.
Agapanthus: African Lily
For the fans of white and blue, the agapanthus is a great choice. Tolerant of coastal conditions, it is particularly suited to gardens locally.
It looks fantastic with ornamental grasses for a very contemporary but soft look or simply in mixed perennial borders where you need extra colour in mid-summer. They are also perfect for pots as they flower better when pot bound.
Like the peonies, do not plant them too deep. They often have a few leaves already when you buy them. These can be a guide. Choose a position in full sun, although they tolerate partial shade.
Please note, deciduous varieties are in general, hardier than the evergreen ones. However, if the winter is very cold, fleecing may be required.
The most fragrant varieties
A number of the summer bulbs are fragrant. As outlined above, the peonies for example and also some of the dahlias. But when it comes to perfume, lilies and freesias are the queens of the garden.
No wonder why the lily is the emblem of the French royalty with its elegant blooms.
The Asiatic lilies are great for pots with their shorter stems, but when it comes to scent, the oriental type is the best. These Mid to late summer flowers stand at 4ft high, on average, where they spread their wonderful and intoxicating perfume.
They are perfect for the middle and the back of the border, overlooking smaller herbaceous plants.
Plant your oriental lily bulbs in a sunny position, in rich, acid to neutral, well-drained soil. Plant the bulb, 3 times the size of the bulb deep.
NB: they are extremely toxic for cats. They would usually not go near them but if you are worried about this, it may be better to stay away from them.
Photo by Megan Gettens on Unsplash
Freesias boast of a strong spicy-sweet fragrance, praised by perfume makers around the world.
They can be grown either indoor or outdoor, or both for a very long season. Either way, it is always better to start them off indoor to be successful. The flowers come in sprays of single or double blooms in a wide range of colours for a sight pleasing display.
Freesias are from South Africa, and tender. They are best grown as annuals. If you wish to keep them from one year to the next, you will have to cheat them and put them through a false summer.
There are, of course many more varieties to choose from including the lily of the valley, gladioli, nerines and callas… If you are still not sure, why not try the assortments. Beautiful varieties in assorted colours with varying heights have been selected so all you need to do is plant, water and feed a little, and, of course, enjoy the summer long of flowers in your outdoor area!
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