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Blooming Times: Spring into Summer

Say the word ‘bulb’ and thoughts of spring immediately come to mind - but there are some bulbus characters to plant now for summer colour. Flo Whitaker selects a few of her favourites

Crocosmia is a hardworking stalwart of any sunny border. It appears deceptively exotic, with fan-shaped arching stems and blooms in vivid orange, red and yellow shades. The upright, sword-shaped leaves are early into growth, providing interest long before the flowers appear, (mid-late summer), while its bobbly seed heads develop tawny brown hues and give a pleasing autumnal quality to a cut flower arrangement of late season dahlias.

Many lilies, (particularly martagon types - often labelled ‘Turks Caps’) prefer an autumn planting, but some will countenance being planted now. Sophisticated lilium regale carries scented white trumpet-shaped blooms with golden yellow centres. Regale’s elegant willowy growth habit makes it perfect for a large patio pot. More suited to a wide border, lily ‘Casa Blanca’ is vast in every way; reaching up to 150cms high, with chunky branching stems that carry enormous pure white flowers. Nothing about Casa Blanca is remotely subtle but, who cares - its outstanding heady perfume will carry across a garden. However, not everyone enjoys lily fragrance. If this is the case then look out for ‘Asiatic’ types, which are unscented and available in many colours, including zingy citrus tones. Lilies are surprisingly shade-tolerant and a position away from direct sun will greatly extend bloom life. Experiment by planting a few bulbs in a large pot then moving the pot around your garden to see how they fare. Some folk reckon shade deters the dreaded lily beetle pests, who prefer a warm, sunny location - that alone makes it worth a try.

Merely uttering the word “gladioli” is enough to send haughty-culturalists staggering to their fainting couches, but gladioli are thoroughly misunderstood – trust me, your borders don’t have to resemble a Dame Edna memorial garden. Planting gladioli in large blocks always looks dreadful – and, if one of the heavy flower spikes keels over, they’ll all behave like toppling dominos. Instead, ‘dot’ placing is the way to go; plant bulbs individually in gaps between shrubs and herbaceous plants to create a swathe of vertical accents marching through the border. Their flowers come in every colour imaginable - including green! Best of all is acidanthera, a refined, classy member of the gladioli family. It looks terrific in a pot and is gently scented.

Dainty triteleia should be more widely known and grown. Resembling a miniature agapanthus, (approximate height 40 cms), the flowers are borne on wiry stems and come in varying shades of blue or white. This sun-worshipper prefers alkaline soils - a rockery suits it admirably. If happy, it may attractively migrate into gravel paths or paving cracks. Alas, triteleia will be killed by a prolonged wet winter but the tiny bulbs are inexpensive. A fivers-worth will give a generous display, so replacements won’t break the bank.

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