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 canna rhizomes 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.
Lilium ‘Broken Heart’ – Oriental Double Lily.
This double oriental lily makes a fine specimen or container plant and the blooms make excellent cut flowers. This variety is particularly fragrant, the butterflies and bees will love it. It will grow up to 80cm (32”) tall and the flower buds open around June. Oriental hybrid lilies are best planted in lime-free soil or ericaceous compost in containers. Plant the bulbs 15cm (6”) deep 30cm (12”) apart from January-April they will flower from June- July.
Lilium ‘Netty’s Pride’ – Asiatic Lily.
This is an unusual lily with deep purple, near black flowers with pure white tips that will add a splash of colour to your garden. Asiatic lilies are usually unscented but this one has a slight fragrance with very sturdy stems. As most lilies are stem rooting it is best to plant them 15cm (6”) deep and 20cm (8”) apart in a pot or container in a loam-based potting compost such as JI No 2 with added grit and leaf mould. They can be planted from November to April and will flower June-July. They like a position in full sun, with the base of the plant in shade the stems will grow up to 80cm (32”) tall. When they are in active growth water freely and apply high potash feed every two weeks.
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.
Dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’ –
An unusual black Dahlia with narrow, curled dark petals and bright golden centres. Plant in March or June 15cm (6”) deep and 50cm (20”) apart in well-drained, prepared soil in fell sun or partial shade. Water regularly and feed when in full growth. The stems will grow to 80cm (32”) tall and will flower July-August.
Dahlia ‘Rebecca’s World’
This dahlia has crimson blooms that fade to white sitting side buy side with white blooms that mature to deepest red. It is a semi-cactus flower with large 15cm (6”) blooms in late summer. It is an easy plant to grow that will reward you with many months of flowers that can also be cut and taken indoors. It will grow to 110cm (43”) tall and spread 60cm (24”).
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 to June, on a bed of sharp sand to aid drainage. They will flower June-October, producing fantastic flowers to cut and take indoors.
This gladioli has unusual pinky-purple blooms with a hint of chocolate. Plant it 8cm (3.5”) deep and 15cm (6”) apart between March and June. They will grow up to 100cm (39”) and flower from June/October.
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 farenheight).
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.
Canna rhizomes are used for summer bedding in frost-prone areas and lifted for winter, or grown in containers on a patio or in a cool conservatory or greenhouse. They produce panicles of brightly coloured, showy flowers, with large paddle-shaped, exotic leaves 30-60cm (12-24”). They are best grown in loamless potting compost in full light with shade from the hot sun. During the growing season, water freely and apply a phosphate-rich liquid fertilizer monthly. Dead head the flowers as they go over to promote continued flowering. Pot on and start in to growth at 16 degrees Celsius (61degrees farenheight).
Canna indica ‘Picasso’
This striking canna is so named as it’s yellow and orange flower spots appear to have been painted with a brush. It is best to plant them 25cm (10”) deep and 50cm (20”) apart in loamless compost between March and May in a sunny position. They will flower during August and October and are often used as a centre plant in bedding schemes or pots and containers.