When one thinks of bulbs it is usually the spring flowering Daffodils and Crocus that come to mind. However, some of the most colourful and dramatic summer flowering plants are grown from bulbs and tubers. Summer flowering bulbs start to appear in garden centres in January for planting later in the spring. If you are looking for a boost on a dull January day choosing some summer bulbs could be just the ticket, you only need to look at the packets to feel warmer.
Summer bulbs do not take up much space and many do well in pots. They look good planted between perennials and even grasses for a more modern look. They also tend to have quite dramatic foliage which compliments the broad leafed foliage of many perennials.
Gladioli may prompt images of a cacophony of colour in Dame Edna Everidge hues but they are wonderful garden plants. Plant a few in the vegetable patch to brighten it up and for cut flowers to bring into the house. Of course you can be a little more subtle and grow Gladioli in single colours or a co-ordinated mix.
Agapanthus is another plant which should not need to be lifted before winter in our area. Agapanthus is not technically a bulb. Its storage unit is its fleshy roots. It has dramatic flower heads rising above lush strap-like foliage in all shades of blue to purple.
Dahlias are becoming more popular again after a period in the doldrums. Dahlias are fun and reliable and give lovely colour right into the autumn. There are so many varieties to choose from. The tubers should be started indoors and then planted out after the danger from frost is over. However, they can be put straight out into the garden at the end of May. Ideally the tubers should be lifted when the frosts come again but you may get away with leaving them in the borders just accept some losses if they occur, particularly if it is a very wet winter. Slug protection is essential.
Crocosmia is another favourite for late summer colour. It flowers in oranges and reds and does not need lifting in autumn. It will go on for years and years and has attractive sword shaped leaves. Lilies are always welcome for their beautiful star-like flowers and magical scent. Lily beetle can be a problem in this area and the only really effective method of control is to pick off the little culprits by hand. Canna Lilies probably go with the slightly retro 70s look with their large exotic foliage and bright gaudy flowers. Start them off in pots indoors in spring and plant out the rhizomes after the danger of frost has past.
For candyfloss on a stick try Nerine bowdenii. Good drainage is essential and they like a sunny spot.