When gardeners think of flower bulbs, they often picture tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Each of these are planted in the fall and bloom in spring. It can be easy to overlook summer-blooming bulbs, but this is their time to shine in the garden.
It’s important to think outside the box when collecting plants for your flower beds. While perennials come back year after year, and annual flowers provide season-long bloom, flowering bulbs provide lovely accents with their colorful or unusual blossoms. Some have intoxicating fragrances, as well.
Last fall, I purchased some Asiatic lily bulbs called Forever Susan. With that name, I thought it’d be fun to add them to my garden. As you can see by the photograph, the flowers are amazing, so I’m glad that I chose them.
Let’s take a look at some of the more notable offerings that garden centers and online suppliers carry. I have included bulbs that extend the spring color display by blooming from May to June. Most of them prefer full sun. Some nurseries ship these bulbs in the fall while others deliver them in early spring.
Asiatic lilies (Lilium auratum): Even though they don’t have a fragrance, these lilies are knockouts in the garden. They are hardy in zones 4 to 8, grow 3 feet to 4 feet tall and bloom in June and July. In addition to Forever Susan, look for Tiger Babies, Morpho Pink, Patricia’s Pride, Apricot Fudge and Easy Dance.
Dutch iris (Iris x hollandica): These stunning flowers look fantastic in groups. They are hardy in zones 5 to 8, bloom in May to June and grow about 2 feet tall. Take a look at Discovery and Eye of the Tiger.
Foxtail lilies (Eremurus): Also known as desert candle, these lilies feature giant flower stalks that remind me of fireworks shooting up into the sky. They are hardy in zones 5 to 8, grow 3 feet to 6 feet tall, attract pollinators and bloom in May or June. So far, I’m growing peachy-pink Romance but would like to add Cleopatra, Orange Marmalade and White Beauty.
Martagon lilies (Lilium martagon): I fell in love with these beauties while watching the English gardening program “Gardener’s World” but was certain they wouldn’t be hardy enough to grow in the Inland Northwest. Boy was I wrong. They are hardy down to zone 3, reach 3 feet to 4 feet in height and bloom in May and June. I’m growing Arabian Knight but also have my eye on Claude Shride and Sunny Morning.
Orienpet lilies: These unusually named lilies are a cross between an Oriental lily and a trumpet lily. They have the fabulous fragrance that Oriental lilies are known for and get their taller stature from trumpet lilies. Orienpets are hardy in zones 4 to 8 and bloom in July and August. Conca d’Or, Pretty Woman and High Tea grow 4 feet to 5 feet tall. Montego Bay and Purple Prince can reach up to 6 feet in height.
Oriental lilies (Lilium orientalis): If you’re looking for eye-catching blossoms with exotic fragrances, these bulbs are for you. They are hardy in zones 5 to 8, grow 3 feet to 4 feet tall and bloom in July and August. I recommend Casa Blanca, Stargazer, Editha, Salmon Star and Garden Party.
No matter which summer bulbs you add to your garden, they are certain to make you beam with pride when it’s their turn to bloom.
Susan Mulvihill is author of “The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook.” She can be reached at email@example.com. Watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow a Garden” video at youtube.com/susansinthegarden.
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