Summer bulbs in public spaces: experience the color!

A spectacular effect

Many varieties of summer bulbs – often in bright eye-catching colors – are suitable for dressing up parks, verges and traffic circles. The impact made by such varieties as Canna (Canna Lily), Calla (Calla Lily) and Crocosmia (formerly known as Montbretia) is absolutely spectacular. What also attracts the attention of passers-by are the wide range of flower shapes among summer bulbs. Good examples are Lilium (Lily) or the ground-hugging Cyclamen hederifolium (Ivy-leaved Cyclamen). Over time, these little cyclamens can easily naturalize to form large carpets of plants in public green spaces. The shapes and colors of less familiar varieties such as Tigridia (Tiger Flower) and Chasmanthe (African Flag Flower) also make a stunning impression in these locations.

The best ones for insects

Among the summer bulbs useful for public spaces, Liatris (Blazing Star) and single-flowered dahlias are the best choices for nurturing insects. The large quantities of pollen and nectar these plants produce will attract hordes of bees and butterflies and make a major contribution to biodiversity. Anemone coronaria (Poppy Anemone) and Gladiolus are also perfect for including in flower mixes that attract bees. Among the gladiolus varieties, the small-flowering Gladiolus nanus and Gladiolus callianthus will thrive in public spaces.

How and where to plant

Plant summer bulbs between the last frost and the end of May. The general rule of thumb for planting is to bury them twice as deep as they are tall. Dahlias, however, are an exception; their tubers should be planted at a shallow depth with the remains of last year’s stem just beneath the soil surface. Because most summer bulbs are true sun-worshippers, plant them in a sunny location. Dahlias are not that fussy about soil so long as it’s water-permeable and not compacted.

Plant summer bulbs either in groups of like varieties or in mixtures such as Crocosmia with Canna or Dahlia with Calla. The possibilities are practically endless. Create plantings based on similar or contrasting colors. Summer bulbs will also look attractive when combined with perennials and shrubs. Certain varieties of summer bulbs will emerge year after year. Some of these are Lilium (Lily), Crocosmia, Cyclamen, Gladiolus nanus (small-flowering gladiolus) and Liatris (Blazing Star).
Dahlias, Tigridia and Chasmanthe should be treated as annuals. Lift these annual summer bulbs after flowering and replace them with spring-flowering bulbs.

The facts

  • Many summer bulbs produce excellent cut flowers. Varieties such as dahlias, Crocosmia, Anemone coronaria (Poppy Anemone) and Liatris (Blazing Star) are suitable for use as public cutting gardens.
  • By choosing varieties carefully, flowers can be on display from the end of May until the end of October.
  • Many summer bulbs such as Dahlia, Canna and Crocosmia will thrive in containers.

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