Snowdrops and Winter Aconites, Crocus, Narcissi, Tulips and Hyacinths.
Even those with limited gardening know-how would recognise these and appreciate how they add colour to our gardens in late winter and spring, leading us forward into summer.
Easy to grow, reliable, versatile – from formal bedding to window box or woodland garden – few gardens will be without a fair share of these main players, and probably a few more varieties as well.
Around three-quarters of bulbs purchased are those listed above; all used to brighten up the garden in the first four or five months of the year. However, there are bulbs for every month, and for so many locations within the garden and house, offering excellent value for money with very little work.
What do we mean by the term ‘bulb’? Many books and catalogues refer to ‘bulbs’, but the botanical expert may try to correct me on what some of these plants actually grow from... as the term is used to include any plant species which produce fleshy storage organs.
This includes true bulbs, such as Narcissi and Tulips, as well as corms, tubers, rhizomes and fleshy roots. These are adaptations of stems, roots and leaves, but all serve the same purpose; that of storing moisture and nutrients through a period of natural dormancy when the soil may be too cold, or too dry, for active growth.
Spring flowering bulbs are well known. But what of the summer bulbous plants? Wonderful for patio containers or for brightening up the summer garden without taking up too much space.
Many make excellent, and cheap, cut flowers, whilst others may be used as house or conservatory plants. Some are fully hardy, so can remain in the ground all year, whilst others are best grown in pots, or lifted in case we have a harsh winter. However these are all perennial plants – meaning they can give pleasure for many years – giving a better and bigger display each year.
Over the next week or so I will remind you of the range of summer flowering bulbs available – and hopefully introduce you to a few new ones. Many boast bright, in-your-face colour – often what we want in the heat of the summer – although there are others in more gentle pastel shades, or, if in doubt, go for white.
Lilies have to top my list of favourites – a true bulb with wonderfully exotic-looking blooms in practically every colour of the rainbow, and a scent to match. Dwarf forms for patio containers, tall ones for the border – the choice is yours. For me, the Regal Lily (Lilium regale) is the winner.
Large, pure white, yellow throated, trumpet-shaped flowers and a delicious scent; think warm summer evenings… Simply stunning.
Of course, I may be biased with this as my first choice, as the Hebrew meaning of the name of my eldest daughter is Graceful White Lily!
n Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre). RHS Courses taught at all levels. Applications now being taken for September 2015. www.maneaschoolofgardening.org