Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Bulbs

Summer Bulbs (page 3 of 7)

by Michael MacCaskey

Montbretia (Crocosmia)

Montbretia (<i>Crocosmia</i>)
Crocosmia

Of all the bulbs listed here, this South African native is perhaps the most useful and least exploited by American gardeners. It blooms midsummer for at least four weeks. Colors are red, crimson-orange, orange and yellow. Once cut, 1- to 2-inch flowers on the 3-foot stems last two weeks. Plants overwinter reliably in Philadelphia and perhaps farther north if heavily mulched. Plant corms just prior to the last frost, about 1 inch deep and 2 inches apart. Afternoon shade is preferred in hot, dry areas. Plants grow 2 to 4 feet high. If you dig and store corms to overwinter, don't allow complete drying. Keep corms partially moist. Look for 'Lucifer' (red), Crocosmia crocosmiiflora (orange-crimson) or C. masoniorum (brilliant orange to orange-red on slightly shorter plants).

Dahlia

Dahlia
Dahlia

You must know about dahlias. They're colorful and agreeable daisies and make an always-welcome August bouquet. The variety of dahlias is immense. Smallest ones are about 6 inches high and the tallest are 6 feet. (An exception, the tree dahlia, reaches 10 feet and more.) Colors are nearly every imaginable one, except blue. Order the gray-brown tuberous roots now, and plant them after frost danger, in March or April. Dahlias need full sun and rich soil, in holes 1-foot deep. Give larger ones room to spread: they'll need 4 or 5 feet. Pound a strong 1- by 2-foot stake into the center of the planting hole, then set the tuber so that the developing bud is 2 inches from the stake and pointed towards it. Cover the tuber with soil; water regularly. Pinch side shoots of flowering stems to get the biggest flowers.

Freesia

These are fragrant and colorful pot plants increasingly favored by florists. In the mild-winter West, freesias are planted in the fall. But they remain available into February, although usually only as colors rather than named varieties. If you live in a cold climate, plant them now indoors. Grow them on a sunny windowsill, or simply keep them from freezing until March or April, then move pots to the garden. Plants grow about 12 inches high. Flowers are 2 inches long. Plant about 10 corms 1 1/2- to 2-inches deep in an 8-inch pot. Use well-drained potting soil. In low-light situations plants will grow taller and floppier, so use a thin wire or bamboo stakes in the pot for extra support.

Summer Hyacinth (Galtonia candicans)

Here is one of the summer bulbs I most want you to try. It is dramatic and fragrant and surprisingly hardy. Winter survival is pretty much a sure thing anywhere south of Philadelphia. In spring, summer hyacinth develops a clump of leaves, some of them three feet long. Midsummer, you'll see a thick flower stem begin. It reaches upwards of 4 feet tall, and is adorned with bell-shaped, 1- to 2-inch white flowers. If you plant in April, you'll have flowers in July. Set large bulbs 6 inches deep in rich soil. (In mild climates, plant in fall.) Cover with thick mulch to help bulbs through winter, or dig and lift bulbs after leaves die in fall.

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