Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Bulbs

Summer Bulbs (page 4 of 7)

by Michael MacCaskey

Gladiolus

Gladiolus
Gladiolus

There are few substitutes in floral bouquets for these tall, stately spikes. And they are so easy to manipulate in the garden: Plant a corm and harvest flowers 85 to 100 days later. By planting every two weeks for two months starting in April, you'll have staggered bloom until fall. In southern California, don't plant after late February to avoid summer thrips; in desert areas, plant November to February to avoid the heat.

Colors span a wide range: apricot, buff, cream, green ('Green With Envy' is new this year), lavender, orange, purple, red, rose and salmon. Individual flowers may be quite large--4 to 6 inches in diameter. Plant habits are variable, too, ranging between 1 1/2 feet (Baby Glads) and 5 feet (Super Novelty types). Cut for indoors just as lowest buds begin to open. Plant four times deeper than the thickness of the corm (five times deeper in light or sandy soil) and set a sturdy stake at planting time for taller kinds. In mild coastal regions, you can leave corms in the ground. Where soil freezes, dig and store corms once tops die back.

Blood Lily (Haemanthus)

This is an unusual--and very tender--bulb that really better suited to container growing than the garden. The plant is another South African native and is related to amaryllis. The most desirable species is H. multiflorus katherinae. If you can't find it, H. multiflora is similar and it costs less. Flower color combines red, coral and white; height is 6 inches to nearly 3 feet. Plant one large bulb to a 10- or 12-inch pot. Place it so the tip is right at the soil surface. Water lightly at first, until leaves appear. Broad, wavy leaves grow a foot or more long. Move outdoors only after danger of frost is past. After two months, a succulent stem emerges and grows upward for two feet. At its top is a cluster of salmon red flowers, each one with long, protruding red stamens.

Peruvian Daffodil (Hymenocallis narcissiflora)

In addition to a powerful fragrance, the most notable feature of this flower is the six, slender, petal-like segments surrounding the central cup of the flower. Flowers are about 4 inches across, including the narrow petal segments. They appear atop 30-inch stems in midsummer, usually 2 to as many as 5 in a cluster. Leaves are bright green, 2 inches wide and strap-shaped, and about 2 feet long. Plant bulbs 1-inch deep in rich, well-drained soil after the last frost. Allow at least 10 inches between bulbs. Peruvian daffodil also grows well in containers. One variety, 'Sulfur Queen', is a beautiful pale yellow.

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