Georgia Magazine - April 2017 - 34
Light up your summer!
Nine spectacular, summer-flowering bulbs
BY BRIAN BARTH
ISTOCK.COM / DANISHKHAN
ummer-flowering bulbs? That
must be a trick question; there
aren't summer-flowering bulbs
in Georgia!" This was the reply my
mother, an avid gardener in Atlanta,
gave when I asked what her favorite
such bulbs were one cold January afternoon.
She's not alone in her assumption that a bulb, by definition, is
something you plant in fall for a
spring bloom. However, there are, in
fact, many "bulbs" that are planted in
spring for a summer bloom. Summerblooming bulbs may lack the renown
of tulips and daffodils, but there are
many spectacular (and surprisingly
If you have much experience
with spring-blooming bulbs, you
know firsthand why Georgia gardeners often consider them finicky. It
seems that even with exhaustive
primping and pampering, they fail to
bloom half the time. Tulips, which
don't flower well in Georgia without
a specified period of winter chill, are
a notorious example.
Clifford Ray Brock, the assistant
curator of the flower garden at
the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, says this is largely because most spring-bloomers hail from
more-temperate climates and just
aren't adapted to our mild winters
and sultry summers. Fortunately, the
inverse is true of most summerblooming bulbs. "Most of the summer
-bloomers do well here," he says.
Among Brock's favorite summerblooming bulbs are some of the many
relatives of amaryllis, a stunning bulb
often "forced" to bloom indoors in
winter (but very difficult to grow outdoors in Georgia). These include
the delicate and dainty rain lily and
the brilliant, red-orange spider lily,
both of which are easily grown
throughout the state. An added benefit of bulbs in the amaryllis family,
says Brock, is that deer don't touch
them. (This is because they have poisonous leaves, however, so they're
not a good choice around pets that
like to chew on foliage.)
Summer-blooming bulbs to avoid
in Georgia? Brock doesn't recommend "true" lilies-those in the genus
Lilium-such as the stargazer and
Asiatic lilies often seen at florists'
shops. Though these summer-bloomers are spectacular, in our climate
they're as "temperamental as tulips,"
Some of the bulbs in the list below you'll likely recognize because
they're found in flower beds all over
the state. Canna lilies, for example.
If you're used to planting them
from pots, you probably don't think
of them as bulbs, but they grow
from rhizomes, which are very similar to bulbs and may be purchased
without soil in winter, when they are
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dormant, and planted in spring.
Just don't plant your summerbloomers too early in spring, says
Brock. "Many summer-blooming
bulbs are frost-susceptible, so it's
best to wait until May to plant them."
Dahlia (Dahlia spp.)
Dahlia blooms come in an astonishing range of colors, shapes and
sizes. While dahlias are a little finicky
in Georgia, they are well worth trying. They're best grown in the North
Georgia mountains region and are
most difficult in the southern part
of the state. Provide full sun and water, and fertilize regularly throughout
the growing season. Stake the topheavy flowers for best results. Mulch
heavily to prevent dahlia bulbs from
freezing in winter. Planting depth:
4 to 6 inches.
Gladiolus (Gladiolus spp.)
With their large, brightly colored,
trumpet-shaped flowers atop tall,
slender leafstalks, gladioluses are a
favorite among floral designers. They
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