Fresh Flower Arrangements

The Magic of Summer Bulbs

I have been so happy in my garden this spring that I could not bear to sit at my desk any longer than to handle the most urgent necessities.  Surely you missed me!!  Now at the summer solstice with 90 degree temps upon us, it feels good to be inside chilling out and taking time for a bit of reflection. Perhaps my favorite surprises over the past couple of months have been the bulbs I planted last fall.

For many springs seasons, as soon as the last azalea and rhododendron blooms had faded, my garden turned a quiet monochromatic green.  Yes, green is still a color and May did offer offer rose buds, but there was little excitement for 5-6 weeks until mid June when my hydrangeas, zinnias and sunflowers started to color the landscape.

When I set about adding some sass to my May/June landscape, I decided to plant more flower bulbs. There are so many kinds of late spring and summer blooming bulbs, and THEY ARE SO EASY!  No giant potted plants to drag around, just little bags of flower bulbs that you tuck into your garden beds in fall through early spring … and VIOLA!!  A procession of fabulous blooms, most of which make long-lasting cut flowers.  Another bonus is that over time bulbs multiply to give you more showy blooms, and bulbs to share with friends.

Lilies, gladiolas, rudbeckia & goldenrod

Lilies and gladiolas look great with rudbeckia, goldenrod & tanacetum.

Below are some of my favorites.  With the exception of caladiums, these prefer a sunny location and do not need to be brought in over winter.

Christmas Amaryllis

Christmas Amaryllis

Amaryllis – The old fashioned red Christmas varieties over-winter reliably in my Summerfield, NC garden (give them extra mulch).  Plant them your potted bulbs into the garden in April and they will bloom again the following spring, usually in May.



Asiatic lilies & Oriental lilies look very much the same, but different colors bloom at different times extending the variety of color in your garden. They will bloom even in part shade!

Asiatic Lily 'Best seller'_007Asiatic Lily 'Best seller'resized

Asiatic Lily ‘Best Seller’

Asiatic Lily 'Lolipop'_008Asiatic Lily 'Lolipop'resized

Asiatic Lily ‘Lolipop’

Tree lily_005Tree lily

Tree Lily


Caladiums  love hot weather and won’t come up until the soil is above 60 degrees.  Treat these as annuals or store the bulbs inside over winter.  Most of these would prefer some shade. They are amazingly drought tolerant once the foliage is up.

Giant Calla Lily_012Giant Calla LilyresizedCalla Lilies
These elegant cup shaped beauties often have gorgeous tropical looking speckled leaves.







Canna Australia

Canna Australia

Canna Lilies & Ginger Lilies (technically corms/tubers) are often available as bare-root plants in winter catalogs.  These are usually bold dramatic plants that need a big space in your garden. The foliage is often as spectacular as the bloom.



Crocosmia with red Dahlia

Yellow Crocosmia with Red Dahlia

Crocosmia has long graceful stems with blooms that come in hot colors of yellow, orange and red. Florists call this “Montbretia”.


Dark red Dahlia resized


Dahlia 'Sun Explosion'_009Dahlia 'Sun Explosion'resized

Dahlia ‘Sun Explosion’











Dahlias – Look for the new varieties bred for the cut flower industry.  These are not “dinner plate” dahlias that fall over in a breeze, but plants with 4″ to 5” blooms on that stand upright with minimal support.  Mulch these heavily over winter and they will usually come back the next spring.




Elephant Ears – Bulbs marked Zone 7 should survive our winters. They love water.

Eucomus (pineapple Lily) – ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ is particularly showy.

Gladiolas – Come in every color and there are tall and dwarf varieties to suit your space. Planting them 6 inches deep to keep them from falling over.

Gloriosa Lilies – These are unique delicate climbing lilies that grow about 5’ tall. Grow them aainst a fence, light pole, or taller plants to support them.



Liatris – Bees and butterflies love these fuzzy purple spikes.






Lycoris (surprise lilies, naked ladies) – Funny names for Grandmother’s favorites. You can often get pass-along bulbs from friends.

Oxalis (shamrock) – Makes a beautiful ground cover with green or burgundy leaves and pink flowers.

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily

Tiger Lilies – Multiply quickly for a beautiful patch of color. You may find friends who have them to share.






General rules of thumb for planting summer bulbs:

  • If you order bulbs online, they are often shipped at the proper planting time for your area. Nevertheless, read the instructions before planting.  Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, Gloucester, VA is a good source, and they are very generous to our public gardens.
  • Bulbs like loose soil enriched with lots of compost. (“Bulb food” is not enough to keep them healthy long term.)
  • Plant bulbs at least 3 times as deep as the bulb is thick.
  • Plant bulbs with the pointy end up and the roots down. If you can’t tell which is which, plant the bulb sideways and it will figure it out by itself. Gently cover the bulb with soil & water it in.  Do not press it in with your foot as this only compacts the soil.
  • Plant in bulbs in groups or clusters for greatest impact.
  • Bulbs need good drainage during their dormant season so they do not rot.

I am offering 3 more ‘Hands-on” gardening classes this summer that you will love!  Anyone may attend.  Click on my Summer Course Schedule below for dates.  You may REGISTER from the Course Schedule Page  or Contact me directly at ellen@www.learntogarden.net or my cell 336-541-5699.

September 19, 2019 Gardening Class

Warm regards,

Ellen Ashley