Summer Bulbs at Home
Bulbs, in general, are great for multiple layers in a mixed planting. In an earlier post I covered the spring flowering bulbs that I have planted in my home garden. But the alliums are what slows down the traffic passing by my house. I use many and each flower at different times. In general, alliums like dry soil. I do keep my garden on the dry side, because if you over irrigate, the bulbs will not come back annually. After years of trial I’ve narrowed it down to the ones I will discuss below. I use these varieties because they are dramatic and durable in the garden. Allium are discussed in order of flowering sequence.
Allium amplectens ‘Graceful Beauty’ is smallish 12” to 18” and flowers with midseason tulips. It multiples readily and expands into larger clumps.
The larger and dramatic alliums in various shades of purple are the most eye catching. They begin to flower in the third week of May. The blooming starts with Allium ‘Globemaster,’ which has softball-sized heads. It is persistent from year-to-year. It is a medium purple and stands easily three feet high. It is hands down my favorite and if I were to only plant one – this is the one.
Shorter in statue and with a more open head is Allium christophii/ (Star of Persia). It is expensive and should be planted by the hundreds. Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ flowers along with these and is the same height as Globe Master but with a flower head half the size so the contrast is very nice. I find I can depend on it to flower for two to four years and then it needs to be replanted, but it is an inexpensive bulb.
A new one I trialed this year is Allium ‘Miami’. It is darker in color with a dome-shaped flower head as opposed to a full sphere. I liked it very much. The catalogs say it will perennialize, but we will see next spring.
For mid-July blooming I use Allium ‘Summer Drummer’. Lavender with a pink slant to the color, it is great planted amongst tall grasses because it grows seven to eight feet. The grasses will support it as well. I can’t resist cutting a couple of these long-stemmed flowers for my living room coffee table. They are like stellar bodies and last easily three weeks as a cut flower. Allium sphaerocephalon “Drumstick” with its golf ball-sized head is my second favorite. Cheap and long booming it mixes with everything in the midsummer garden. The bees love it them – each head is covered with a dozen bees at a time and I love the sound and activity in the garden.
Nectaroscordum siculum and tripedale are allium relatives that flower in early May. Tall and elegant, with pendulous bell-shaped flowers, they tolerate very light shade. The former is bi-colored mauve and green and the later, green and pink. Nectaroscordum tripedale is rare and pricy but will persist. I add one or two a year at $12-$15 each. Odyssey Bulbs is the only US source I know for it.
Lilies coincide with onion season and there are hundreds to choose from. Lilium ‘Fusion’ is a burnt red and gold blend and makes big clumps quickly.
‘Lankon’ is an Easter Lily hybrid that has white trumpets with black ink spots; it is very fragrant and grows between six and eight feet. As it is a strong grower, you will need to divide it every three years. Be prepared to harvest it like potatoes!
Lily Friso (also goes by Silk Road) is a feature on my front hillside and I love it. It’s inexpensive and stands up well with it’s dark and bright pink throats to white petal tips. It is highly fragrant as well and perfumes the sidewalk for passers-bys. It is my favorite for the color, stature, and dramatic appeal. I grow many others but these three are my go to’s.