Beautiful Summer Bulbs.
Now is the time to think about your garden and how you would like it to look in the summer. While the ground is still wet to work on and the weather is unpredictable you can have some fun. Add vibrant, hot, sizzling colours or cool, calming pastels to your borders, patios and hanging baskets by potting up or planting summer bulbs over the next few weeks. Lily bulbs, dahlia tubers, begonia tubers, gladioli corms and Zantedeschia rhizomes (Calla lily) are available now in lots of exciting colours and varieties.
Lilies are valued for their very showy, often fragrant flowers. The bulbs are composed of overlapping fleshy scales and are often tall, some attaining a height of up to 3m (10m). They are classified into nine different divisions based on their origin, parentage, and flowers. Lilies may be grown on many sites, including woodland, wild gardens and among shrubs or herbaceous plants. They are often grown for exhibition and provide excellent cut flowers. A few are suitable for rock gardens. Many also grow well in a large container on a patio.
Dahlias flower from the middle of summer to the first frosts in autumn, providing bright colour in the garden for several months. All are frost tender and thrive in well-drained, fertile soils of about pH7. If grown for cut flowers, they are best planted in rows in specially prepared beds. They are hungry plants so prepare the soil early in the year, dig in a heavy dressing of manure or garden compost; then add bone meal at 125gm/sq m (4oz/sq yd).
Dormant tubers can be planted out 6 weeks before the last frosts in an open, sheltered site that is not overshadowed. Prepare a planting hole, 15cm (6”) deep and 22cm (9”) across. Place the tuber in the hole with the old stalk pointing upwards, and cover over. Mark the position, it will take about 6 weeks to develop shoots above ground and these will need protection from slugs. Later they will need staking and 4 – 6 weeks after planting feed with a high nitrogen and potash fertilizer either in granular form or by weekly application of liquid fertilizer. As flower buds develop, extra potash in the liquid fertilizer gives strong stems and good flower colour.
Gladioli corms are best planted in clumps in a mixed border, or in rows for cutting. Grow in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Plant the corms 10-16cm (4-6”) deep and 15cm (6”) apart from March through to June, on a bed of sharp sand to aid drainage. They will flower respectively June through to October depending on when they were planted producing fantastic flowers to cut and take indoors.
Tuberous Begonias vary from pendent to upright, with sparsely branched, succulent stems. Most are summer flowering and mainly double flowered. The flowers are borne on small clusters consisting of 2 small female flowers and 1 showy, frequently double male flower. They produce flowers from winter-dormant tubers. Plant tubers hollow side uppermost, in free-draining potting compost at 16-18 degrees Celsius (61-64 degrees fahrenheit).
Non stop Begonia
Non-stop begonias do just that they continually flower throughout the summer. They come in bright shades and are ideal for hanging baskets and containers. With weather resistant blooms they will keep flowering from July to October. They grow 30cm (12”) in height and spread. Insert them into potting compost 3cm (1”) deep with hollow side uppermost, 25cm (10”) apart during March to May.
Zantedeschia (Calla lily) flowers can come in white, pink, orange or red with dark green, heart-shaped foliage. Calla lily plants are native to marshlands of South Africa and can grow to 60cms (24”) tall. As cut flowers they last a long time in floral displays. They can be grown as an indoor plant or in containers outside during the summer preferring moist soil. If growing indoors, provide bright, indirect light. Apply liquid fertiliser monthly while in flower. Keep away from heating and reduce watering when the plant enters dormancy (November). Cut off leaves at soil level once they have died.
Rhododendrons produce spectacular, sometimes, strongly scented flowers, which are borne from singly or in lateral or terminal racemes (trusses) from late autumn to late summer. The individual flowers vary greatly in size and shape and are often marked with flares or spots inside. There are thousands of hybrids, encompassing nearly every flower colour. Some have attractive young growth, a few have decorative, exfoliating bark and a number are valued for their autumn colour.
Rhododendrons have a wide range of garden uses; dwarf alpine varieties are effective in a rock garden; larger woodland rhododendrons are excellent for brightening shady areas; the hardy hybrid rhododendrons are tolerant of more exposed sites and also suitable for hedges or informal screens; and many of the modern compact hybrids are ideal for growing on shaded patios, or in containers or tubs.
Rhododendrons are split into various groups the most popular are:-
Evergreen Rhododendrons, these have green leaves all year round and include the “hardy hybrids”. They vary in habit from small, cushion-forming shrubs to tree rhododendrons. They have small to large leaves and flowers in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.
Evergreen and deciduous azaleas are small to medium-leaved shrubs belonging to the genus Rhododendron, and commonly known to gardeners as azaleas. They bear a profusion of small to large trusses of usually small flowers in a variety of shapes.
Outdoors, grow rhododendrons in moist but well-drained, leafy humus-rich, acid soil (ideally Ph4.5 – 5.5). Shallow planting is essential: all rhododendrons are surface rooting and will not tolerate deep planting. Most large-leaved species and hybrids require dappled shade in sheltered woodland conditions: avoid deep shade immediately beneath a tree canopy.
Most of the other groups, including the “hardy hybrids”, thrive in light dappled shade or part-day shade, but not early morning sun; they will tolerate a more open site if given shelter from cold, dry winds. Avoid frost pockets to reduce the risk of water logging and bark split.
Feed with ericaceous slow release fertiliser and mulch annually with leaf mould in spring. After flowering, deadhead where practical to promote vegetative growth rather than seed production. Carefully pinch out the spent flower heads before the new shoots emerge. After flowering, lightly trim or prune back shoots that spoil symmetry.
If planting in containers or tubs add clinker to the bottom of the pots for drainage, put in a layer of ericaceous compost; add ericaceous mycorrhizal fungi ensuring the roots of the plant are in contact to encourage secondary roots: then backfill around plant with more ericaceous compost mixed with ericaceous slow release fertiliser. Firm the plant in, place in position and water well.
Jobs for March
- Protect the new spring shoots of Lupins, Delphiniums etc from slugs.
- Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes.
- Plant summer-flowering bulbs.
- Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials.
- Top dress containers with fresh compost and fertiliser.
- Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed)
- Cut back dogwoods and willow.
- Remove perennial weeds and hoe off annual weeds, feed ground and mulch.
- Tidy up the pond, remove leaves and netting.
- Pruning bush and climbing roses.
Jobs for April
- Weed regularly
- Protect fruit blossom from late frosts
- Tie in climbing and rambling roses
- Sow hardy annuals, herbs and wildflower seed outdoors
- Start to feed citrus plants
- Increase the water given to houseplants
- Feed hungry shrubs and roses with appropriate feed.
- Sow new lawns or repair bare patches
- Prune fig trees
- Divide bamboos and waterlilies
Jobs for May
- Watch out for late frosts. Protect tender plants
- Earth up potatoes, and promptly plant any still remaining
- Plant out summer bedding at the end of the month (except in cold areas)
- Water early and late to get the most out of your water, recycle water when possible
- Regularly hoe off weeds
- Open greenhouse vents and doors on warm days
- Mow lawns weekly
- Check for nesting birds before clipping hedges
- Lift and divide overcrowded clumps of daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs
- Watch out for viburnum beetle and lily beetle grubs