GIMME SHELTER- Bloomin' Summer: Get landscaping started now!

Jay Eltzroth
Eltzroth & Thompson Greenhouses


Q: Last summer, the terrible August heat sapped the color right out of our garden. This year, I'd like to make sure we have some colorful blooms around. When should I start thinking about planting summer bulbs? And what are some good summer bulb choices?

A:To ensure great color in your garden in the heat of summer, you'll need to think about planting your summer bulbs now. Summer bulbs can provide beautiful blooms once your roses and other spring flowers have lost their luster. Also, most of these bulbs will bloom late into the fall, giving your asters and chrysanthemums some company. 

However, given the cold temperatures we've had this spring, the timing can be a little tricky. That's because summer bulbs need to be planted after all danger of frost has passed. Most folks start planting them at the end of April, but if we get a sudden May frost, you'll lose them. Even if the outside temperature is warm, the ground can still be cold, and if these colder temperatures persist there's a chance of a sudden cold snap in May. With summer bulbs it's best not to jump the gun: keep your bulbs in the fridge until you're pretty sure those cold nights are past us. 

Popular bulbs include gladiolas, dahlias, and lilies. Glads are very popular because they're tall-stemmed, good for cut flowers, provide a good back-boarder for your garden because they're so tall, and come in vivid colors. They're also a favorite of hummingbirds. Dahlias, too, provide marvelous color and make great cut flowers.

And lilies, like the popular orange tigers and stargazers, are sturdy plants that can grow in a variety of soils. If you get past the danger of frost, you can expect beautiful blooms to appear in late June or July, and they'll stick around through August, September, and even October. 

Keep in mind, though, the majority of summer bulbs will not over-winter here, so you'll need to treat them as annuals and be prepared to plant them all over again next spring.