Plant Some Surprises for Now and Next Spring

Even during the “dog days” of summer, just when some of my plants and I begin to feel tired and wilted, flowers like crinums, like Crinum 'Ellen Bosanquet’ with big burgundy-pink trumpets and glossy green foliage bring a smile to my face. I recently saw a mass of these indestructible bulbs planted against a backdrop of Japanese maples; the effect was stunning. While this crinum demands little and promises to please for weeks, -- continuing on and off from summer to fall,-- it is happiest if the established clumps are left undisturbed. I know from experience that moving them is no small feat.

The Red Spider Lily, Lycoris radiata, is another bulb that can catch me by surprise in early fall. This heirloom has graced gardens for generations with its orange-red spidery flowers which pop out of the ground on leafless stalks. After the blooms begin to fade the foliage appears and persists through winter and into late spring. This bulb is happy growing in sun or part shade, great for the deciduous woodland. Combine it with ferns like Southern shield (Thelypteris kunthii) and maidenhair (Adiantum capillus-veneris). Like crinums, Lycoris resent being moved too often and may not bloom for the first year after they are moved.

The brilliant crimson amaryllis- like flowers of theoxblood lily, Rhodophiala bifida, arrive on the scene with the first autumn rains. These adaptable bulbs persist, thrive, and multiply in a wide range of soils. Plant oxblood lilies in combination with low groundcovers, (like Ajuga) in front of ornamental grasses or with annuals like Scaevola ‘Cajun Blue.’

Now is a good time to plan ahead for next spring, so that when the weather finally cools off a bit and the soil temperatures drop, you will be ready to plant your spring flowering bulbs.

Below are some suggested combinations of spring flowering bulbs with perennials and shrubs for spring.

Hyacinthoides hispancus Spanish Bluebells- Growing 12-18” high, this shade tolerant bulb is ideal for planting in front of Azaleas, Rhododendrons, (look for the Southgate series), Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ and other spring flowering shrubs. The rich blue blooms make also make great cut flowers.

Leucojum aestivum - Combine this tough heirloom with Ferns, Hostas, Hellebores and hardy Gingers (Asarumspecies). The white bell shaped flowers may look delicate, but this bulb will grow happily in a wide range of soils, including those that are damp. It is also shade tolerant and resistant to deer.

Narcissus x odorus ‘Campernelle’ – Combine this fragrant jonquil (blooms in February ) with Hellebores which will help mask the jonquil foliage when it ripens (at least 1/3 of it should be yellow before you cut it down)

Tulipa cluisana var. ‘Lady Jane’- For a colorful combination, plant this species tulip with perennial groundcovers like Heliotropium amplexicaule ‘Azure Skies’ or Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’. If you haven’t had success with tulips, try this winner.