Thursday 25 May 2017

Planting summer bulbs to spice up any border

GERRY DALY

There is always great excitement in autumn about planting spring bulbs -- an investment of hope for a brighter garden in spring. The harvest of this effort will soon be reaped. But there are many beautiful summer bulbs that can be planted in spring and early summer and there is never quite the same commotion about them.

These plants include lilies, begonia, canna, dahlias, gladiolus, tiger flower and anemones. Strictly speaking, these are not all bulbs. Some of them are, such as the lilies, and others are tubers, corms and fleshy roots, generally sold as a chunky dormant root or stem.

The summer bulbs are very beautiful, colourful with larger flowers and more variety than the spring bulbs. The spring bulbs flower when the garden is quite bare but the summer bulbs have to compete with full borders and lots of flowers.

The summer bulbs flower over an extended period from mid-summer with anemones and ranunculus to late autumn with dahlias and cannas.

The best way to use summer bulbs is to select two or three kinds of preference that might suit the garden. For example, lilies and gladiolus are great for July and August while dahlias are great for late summer colour. Dahlias last a longer period but the show of lilies can be spectacular.

All of the summer bulbs are perfect for spicing up an existing planting. They can be tucked away between existing plants and will brighten their surroundings. Any gaps or bits of space can be used for a few lily bulbs, a big dahlia or canna, or a group of gladiolus spikes.

Many of the flowers are good for cutting, too, such as lilies, gladiolus and dahlias, and look well indoors, if the garden can spare them. So the best plan is to put in a few extra bulbs to allow for some to be taken into the house. Anemones, for instance, are remarkably beautiful in a low glass vase.

When planting summer bulbs, first establish that there is some available space so they are not swamped by large spreading perennials. Dig in plenty of well-rotted compost and plant the bulbs or tubers.

Some kinds can be started off indoors, such as dahlias, cannas and begonias, which are not hardy. But the others can be planted directly where they are to flower. Some of the big kinds, such as lilies and dahlias, might need a cane for support.

There are other summer bulbs, such as the exotic gloriosa and hymenocallis, both for use in a greenhouse or conservatory, available now in garden outlets.

Sunday Independent

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