Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Bulbs
Summer Bulbs (page 5 of 7)
by Michael MacCaskey
There are so many wonderful irises. But I do direct your attention to two excellent species that you can buy and plant now for summer bloom: Japanese iris (Iris ensata) and Siberian iris (I. sibirica).
Japanese iris makes a four-foot-tall, early-summer-blooming plant. Colors include blue with purple ('Dazzling Tapestry'), purple ('Floating Cloud'), pink ('Pink Lady'), rose ('Rose Queen') and white ('White Queen'). In many cases, contrasting shades edge petals. Vertical leaves have a raised midrib. Japanese iris thrives at the edge of pools, ponds and streams, or in partially submerged pots. Plant rhizomes 2 inches deep and divide clumps in late summer, replanting the youngest ones for the clump's outer edge.
Siberian iris is not quite as tall nor available in quite as many color variations. Narrow, grassy leaves grow 2 1/2 feet high and flower stems reach 1 foot or so higher. Flowers are shaped more like a Dutch iris and usually appear in June, just as the bearded iris pass. Colors include blue, purple, purple-red and white; 'Caesar's Brother' is blue and 'Snow Queen' is white. All make excellent cut flowers. Plant rhizomes 1 inch deep and don't divide until the center of a clump stops growing.
Lilies have an other worldly air about them. Perhaps that's why they are so often associated with royalty, purity or funerals. The genus includes more than 100 species and thousands of named varieties. Bloom time varies, of course, but is mostly early to late summer. The color range is orange, red, pink, yellow and white. Height varies between one and seven feet.
Many kinds of lilies are available in both fall and spring. Whatever the season, plant as soon as you can after receiving them. This is important because unlike most bulbs, lilies are never completely dormant. All lilies need loose, well-drained soil, plenty of moisture year-round, cool soil for roots and bright, cool sun for leaves. Gophers love to chew on lily bulbs. If they are active in your area, plant bulbs in wire baskets.
Not counting the Easter lily, the lilies that fit most peoples' image of this flower are any of the Oriental types. They make huge, fragrant, flat-faced flowers, eight inches or more wide. In most cases, flowers face outward; some face upward and some are semi-pendant. Most grow three to four feet tall and, surprisingly, do very well in containers. One of the best known is Lilium speciosum 'Rubrum' (red) and L. s. 'Album' (white). Hybrids between these and L. auratum, the gold-band lily, have produced popular varieties such as 'Casa Blanca' (nine inches, pure white) and 'Stargazer' (up-facing, red with white margins).