Bulbs for your Summer Borders

As is often the way in England, our snow has waited for the false security of nearly spring to… spring upon us! However, not to be caught out, we’ve prepared a list of bulbs that will be available to buy soon, to be your first strike back against our belligerent and unpredictable climate and provide the promise of a colourful summer to come.

Floral and Hardy’s Top Five Summer Flowering Bulbs:

picture of Acidanthera


Looking a bit like a small Gladioli, this neat white bloom is ideally situated close to a path or border so you can enjoy the scent of their flowers more conveniently. However, due to the exoticism of its endemic environment, you should refrain from planting too early as the brisk springs we receive can really hurt its chances of becoming established. So, wait until May at the earliest and plant them in rich, sun washed soil. You’ll want to plant these bulbs 4-6 inches apart and 4 inches deep, though if you plant a little deeper you ensure extra protection against the fabled false spring. These bulbs need to be lifted in autumn and in order to ensure healthy bulbs for future seasons the care you give it whilst in storage is very important. As with any plant matter, storing in a heated area is a recipe for rot or bacteria to infect it and Acidanthera is no different. Store it in a cool, dry area like the shed or cool greenhouse.

picture of Allium giganteum

Allium giganteum

The Allium is a lovely low maintenance bulb that will pay dividends with huge rounded heads of starry mauve flowers, if planted correctly. Firstly, you should ensure the soil is well drained by lacing it with grit and, secondly, that it is nutrient rich – easily accomplished with a well devised compost. Last week we talked about cold frame and greenhouse gardening and these make for an ideal environment for the giganteum bulb in the propagation stage. You want to sow the bulbs at the beginning of spring or alternatively remove the offsets in autumn. When deciding how to plant them, allow 7 inches between each bulb and the same in terms of depth.

picture of Convallaria


Lily of the Valley is another bulb requiring little care past its induction to the garden, which should include a rich, fertile soil, preferably composed of a combination of humus and chalk, and perhaps a spatter of silt to ensure good drainage. Due to its clump forming habit, this species makes for excellent ground cover and as such should be one of the first bulbs you should consider in numbers to create an aesthetically pleasing, and low maintenance, carpet effect over the bare soils of spring. Allow a 7 inch depth and spread between each plant and enjoy their sweetly scented blooms.

picture of Gladiolus


Made famous by Dame Edna, one of the smaller bulbs on our list, but certainly one of the most colourful, the Gladiolus, requires between 4-5 inches of depth and space to survive in an English garden. However, make sure they’re planted well after the last frost and as an extra precaution you can lay down an extra mulch around the plants. If you do opt for this extra layer, do not be alarmed if the plant takes longer to breach the surface as this is merely an indicator of the mulches effectiveness as an insulator. They will need to be lifted in autumn, like the Acidantheras, unless you live somewhere very mild, but their bold, bright blooms make it worth the trouble.

picture of Tigridia


Producing extremely exotic-looking, colourful, speckled, flowers this Mexican bulb should be planted in a sandy, fertile soil in full sun to a depth of around 4 inches. As they are quite tender, once they have flowered, I would recommend moving the bulbs from their outdoor planting positions into storage in pure sand regulated at around 10 degrees centigrade. As always, avoid planting out again until the last frost has cleared as this can inhibit the bulb’s ability to establish roots.

By Josh Ellison

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