Flowers are a beautiful addition to any home's landscape and most begin as simple bulbs. Spring is not the only time that these flowers bloom-you can also plant bulbs in the spring that bloom in the summer. Summer bulbs are ideal for patio containers and add colour to mixed borders without taking up much space. They are easy to plant and are the best candidate to bring your children into gardening.
Bulbs are great for planting with young children. Their bigger size makes them much easier to handle than seeds-and a good deal less fiddly for little fingers. Everyone can get involved which makes for a lot more enjoyment all round.
Knowing how and when to plant summer blooming bulbs will give you something cool and beautiful to look at and talk about with your kids during those hot summer months.
Things to consider when planting summer bulbs:
- Choose healthy bulbs and prepare your soil for planting
- Plant summer-flowering bulbs, such as Dahlias, Gladiolus and Lilies in early to mid-spring.
- Summer bulbs can be bought growing in pots and planted "in the green".
- Be sure to examine bulbs carefully, making sure they are healthy and firm and have strong growing points.
- Most bulbs thrive in a warm, sunny site, in well-drained soil.
- Plant bulbs at two to three times their own depth and two to three bulb widths apart.
Selecting good bulbs
Buy dry bulbs when they are as fresh as possible. Summer bulbs are usually on sale from early spring onwards, when they are dormant. Healthy bulbs will feel firm and show no signs of mould or damage. Look for bigger bulbs as they will produce bigger blooms.
Planting in spring
Plant your bulbs in early spring as soon as the weather and soil conditions permit. The ideal soil temperature is 13°C as in colder soil bulbs will not start to grow and may rot. Aim to plant dry bulbs directly after purchase. Bulbs you have stored over winter should be planted at the end of their dormant season.
Plant them in a good potting soil, water and keep the bulbs in a warm area. They won't need any light until they have sent sprouts above the surface.
Preparing the soil
Different bulbs need different soil types but summer bulbs generally like a warm, sunny position. Free-draining soil is important as bulbs are susceptible to rotting. If you have heavy clay soil, add in plenty of compost or sphagnum peat moss with one to two buckets of coarse sand per square meter, to improve soil texture and drainage.
Planting the bulbs
Dig individual holes for each bulb or a trench for many bulbs. Place bulbs in the holes without pushing down hard. Make sure the growing point is pointing upwards. Cover with soil and firm.
Planting depth and spacing
Use the bulb as a guide and plant it two or three times its depth. Space them approximately two to three bulb widths apart.
Planting bulbs in pots
Many summer bulbs are ideal for growing in patio containers, especially tender species. These can then be lifted in winter and stored. Pot-grown bulbs may be planted directly in their desired position in a border where you want them to flower. This is known as planting "in the green". For these plants, make a hole wide and deep enough to allow room for the roots to spread and plant the bulb at the same depth as before.
Growing bulbs in pots can also be useful to start kids off with their own garden in a small way. Youngsters can explore their own interests and likes-and learn their own lessons-before moving on to bigger and better things. It's an educational experience, but one that's bound to be lots of fun-provided your kids aren't too competitive or given to excessive sibling rivalry, of course!
Summer bulbs are remarkably easy to grow and with their typical bright, showy flowers provide a strong splash of colour throughout the warmer months and well into autumn. No kids' garden should be without them.
Suggested Summer Bulbs
Dahlias: Probably offering the widest range of colors, bloom shapes, sizes and plant heights. Dahlias are sturdy, reliable bloomers. Sun loving Dahlias are available in every colour except blue, bloom later in the summer and often get to be large plants that need support. There are two basic types of Dahlias: border and bedding. Border Dahlias are large plants that are grown from tubers that are kept from year to year.
Border Dahlia tubers can be divided as they grow. Bedding Dahlias are compact, mound growers that are produced from seed each year. They form a tuber by the end of the season, but they do not store well.
Begonias: Hardly anything compares to the incredible, rose-like flowers on tuberous Begonias. They require lots of moisture, well-drained soil and frequent feedings. These bulbs bloom in bold, lush colors on plants with large leaves and fleshy stems and are shade tolerant.
Lilies: Great for beds and borders, planted among shrubs, along walls, or in containers. They are incredibly easy to grow and few garden pests trouble them. Lilies prefer to have their blooms in the sun and their roots in the shade. Try planting them among annuals or perennials that will keep their roots cool. Always allow the leaves on the stalk to turn yellow and fall off as part of the Lily's natural growth process. This ensures that the bulbous underground part of the plant has gotten enough nourishment and will mean greater growth next year. Each year watch their beauty increase as they multiply!
Gladiolus: Available in bold and subtle colours, solids and bi-colors, and in various heights, Glads are a versatile, easy-to-grow summer bulb. They are inexpensive, quick growing and impressive. Glads multiply by developing cormlets around the old bulb. They prefer full sun.