Bulbs to light up the summer

Lilium 'Golden Splendour', Summer 2012

Given the shocking weather (I promise not to mention the weather again …. for a few days at least!), and that we’ll be on our travels after Easter, I’ve decided not to sow any seeds until the end of April. This is very late, but I can’t go another spring with the dining room looking like the set from Jack and the Beanstalk. (I’ve decided that in my next life I’m coming back as a 19th Century aristocrat and having Joseph Paxton build me a decent greenhouse.) In the case of the climbers like Ipomea, Nasturtium and Thunbergia, I’m pretty confident they’ll catch up in no time. Others will just have to take their chances. A bit of late summer colour never goes amiss.

I can’t go another spring with the dining room looking like the set from Jack and the Beanstalk.

Most summer bulbs, on the other hand, should be fine planted a little later , so if you haven’t bought yours yet, there’s time left to get to the garden centre or order online. Lilies, I try to plant in autumn, giving them a chance to settle down before an early start in spring. I’m a Lilium regale devotee but, breaking with tradition, I’m trying something new this year, Lilium ‘Lady Alice’, top, which has beautiful, saffron stained petals and should blend in quite well with the resident ‘Golden Splendour’ (pictured above). Given some sun, Eucomis also do well for me and I love their exotic, pineapple-like flower heads. Having seen Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ in all it’s glory at Killerton House last year, I’ve decided to plant a large pot of these as soon as we get back. Hopefully the result will be more satisfactory than my first crack at the diminutive Eucomis vandermerwei, only one bulb of which flowered last year, when it was too wet by far.

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy', Killerton House, 2012

For indoors, I’ve selected an orange form of Gloriosa rothschildiana (the flame lily), which will hopefully enjoy the hot, sunny conditions on our bathroom windowsill (Photo Dinesh Valke). I’ve never tried growing gloriosas before, but they need to be pre-sprouted in damp sawdust to encourage rapid growth after planting. They then need plenty of water and regular feeding to encourage the appearance of these stunning flowers.

Gloriosa rothschildiana orange

For the first time in this garden I am going for dahlias in a big way, which will no doubt become a giant snail headache if we have to endure another damp summer. Ever the optimist I was inspired by my recent visit to India where dahlias are often grown in containers on stairways and terraces. Catching my eye are Dahlia ‘Julie One’ (photo Wikimedia Commons, below), Dahlia ‘Fire Pot’ and Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’. In late summer I particularly enjoy all these fiery colours, which seem to provide such a fitting finale to the year. Looking out of the window it’s hard to imagine the garden will ever assume that lush exuberance again, but of course it will. Things can only get better from here.

Dahlia 'Julie One'