Most of us are only just beginning to remove the weeds and prepare our gardens for spring. Although most garden planting may be a bit premature, now is a good time to start thinking about summer flowering bulbs. So when you're pottering about in the next few weeks, it's certainly worth sparing 20 minutes to get some extra bulbs in the ground!
For me, planting bulbs is usually an autumn activity. Once the summer flowering annuals have finished and the containers have been emptied, I include bulbs to flower in spring before planting the winter display flowers on top. However, there are some bulbs you can get away with planting in spring; the exact time of which depends on your location in the UK.
To help you pick which flowering bulbs to include in your display this summer, I've put together a small list of summer flowering bulbs that deserve the chance to shine!
There are so many varieties available that your choice depends on where you're planning to grow them. If you're growing in containers, or the front of borders, opt for the shorter stemmed Asiatic hybrids or Pixie series, as these will only get to 60cm (2ft) tall.
Lilium auratum (Mountain lily) prefers neutral or slightly acidic soil and can get to 2.5m (8ft) tall. It has slightly speckled flowers.
L. speciosum (Japanese lily) gets to 1.5m (5ft) tall and produces up to 12 scented white/pink flowers, whose petals are swept backwards.
L. longiflorum (Easter Lily) can get to 1m (3ft) tall with very fragrant white trumpet flowers that typically appear from April onwards. Planting now will result in June flowering.
L. formosanum (Formosa lily), a close relative to L. longiflorum, this is another tall (2m) variety that prefers slightly acidic soil. Its stunning white trumpet flowers appear in early autumn.
For those of us with smaller spaces, there is a dwarf variety L. formasanum var. pricei that has the same trumpet flowers but on stems that only get to 30cm high. A much more manageable height for container growing.
Warning Place lilies where cats can't brush against them and accidentally get dusted with the pollen. Toxic to domestic cats, ingesting the pollen will require immediate veterinary attention.
These beautiful flowers are perfect for adding striking colour to a mixed border, and they come in a range of colours. I tend to grow them on my allotment as they make lovely cut flowers for floral displays at home.
They are easy to grow, but their corms don't like it too wet. Adding well-rotted manure into the base of the planting hole will help with drainage. If you have heavy soil, start them off in containers to be planted out in May. They should be flowering from late July onwards.
Tip They may need staking in windy locations.
Dahlias come in such a range of colours and flower shapes that I could write pages and pages about them. If you have the time, it's worth visiting the Dahlia Society's
website for the plant's history.
The tubers need to be kept frost-free, so planting them outside in April is risky- last years, frost on the first of May caught me out. If you have space, pot them up inside, making sure the compost is moist to give them a head start. There's no worry if you don't; planting out in May will still result in flowers emerging only a little later.
Tip If you're planting several varieties, remember to label them.
I love this plant. Once known as Montbretia, this vigorous corm has escaped the garden and now grows happily in hedgerows along Cornwall and Devon's coastlines. From the striking 'Lucifer', with its bright red colour, through the orange varieties, all the way to 'Paul's Best Yellow'. My particular favourite is the compact C. X crocosmiiflora 'Emily McKenzie', with its bright orange flowers and a deep red inside the throat.
Plant the corms roughly 10cm deep, about 15cm apart. They will quickly produce offsets to form clumps that are surprisingly easy to contain. A sharp spade will quickly reduce clumps back.
Tip Like all bulbs, deadheading will prevent the plant from using energy to produce seeds. This will help ensure a larger bulb for next year's display.
These tall (1.5 to 2.5m) flowering plants have dramatic foliage and are ideal for growing in containers. They have the added benefit that you can move them into spaces where other plants have failed. With cultivars offering a range of leaf colour and markings, it's worth growing several different varieties to create a luxurious tropical feel.
Start these tender rhizomes off indoors in April by planting them in multipurpose compost that only slightly covers them. Once past the last frost, they can be planted outside - about 10cm deep and roughly 75cm apart.
Tip In mild areas, these can be left to overwinter outside, provided they are given a thick layer of mulch.