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Bulbs flower in the summertime

When the hot summer months start to ramp up the thermometer out in the garden, nature decides to bring gardeners some exotic bulbous plants that excite their landscape settings, and I say, "Wow, where did that come from?"

Bulbous plants in summer have a specific internal time clock. When the hot months of July, August and September arrive, here they come, and a botanical surprise occurs in the garden when least expected.

I am mesmerized by bulbs from South Africa and the Mediterranean region, and I have been growing, breeding and selecting some of those summer classics here in Fallbrook for years.

Enjoy some of my favorites.

Sea squill, urginea maritima, a huge bulb that comes from the coastal regions of Spain, Portugal and Italy. In the depth of hot summer months, this bulb erupts out of the warm baked soil with emerging 4-5 foot white flower spikes. It is a bulb that is adapted to our drought conditions in Southern California. Once you plant it up to the neck of the bulb, give it a couple of waterings, and then it's on its own.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture originally imported it as an organic rat-poison to be used around corn silos for rodent control. Some of these trial plantings were sent to California for growing and selections. One of those experimental plots was in Bonsall, grown by Paul Thompson and another significant planting out in Murrieta by botanist Howard Scott Gentry.

I came in contact with these bulbs when I had an exotic flower company called Protea Farms of California and started shipping the long-stemmed flowers to the cut floral trade up in Los Angeles.

This bulb likes it dry with no irrigation to speak of and is truly a winner in any xeriscape garden setting. The tall flower spikes erupt July thru August and are great to use in any avant-garde high floral designs.

They enjoy good soil drainage and will not tolerate heavy soils for it holds too much moisture, so good drainage is critical.

No exclusive feeding, no watering after the plants are set into the ground, just let the winter rains water them and really, what else could a gardener ask for in our dry climate which they say is going to get dryer in seasons to come. My philosophy is plan before you plant.

Other summertime flowering bulbs for your garden are the naked ladies – amaryllis belladonna. These bulbs are from South Africa and once again flower in midsummer throughout the southland. Their delicate fragrant slender flower spikes are a delight to enjoy in our gardens, and are very drought tolerant and pair well with agapanthus plantings. After flowering, it sends up a cluster of strap-like foliage and is a winter grower that goes dormant in springtime for a nap and a rest.

The petite zephyr lilies are another delightful summer bulb in pinks, yellow and white flowers and, tucked into a rock garden, are a lovely surprise in the depth of the hot summer months.

If you're looking for another beautiful summer flowering bulb, the crinums from South Africa is an excellent bulb in any perennial planting. Their robust palm-like, deep green foliage is a winter grower, and this time of year, it goes dormant. I usually cut the dying leaves off and wait with excitement for the tall, slender flower spikes with pink, white or lavender blossoms that are fragrant, give you a vision of an exotic faraway tropical paradise.

Maybe your garden has some shady nooks and you are looking for another South African flowering bulb, well the clivia cyrthaniflora is a great candidate in deep shade. We usually think of springtime as the season for clivia to flower, but the 2-foot tall growing clivia blooms off and on throughout the year. Its flowers are pendant, meaning the individual flower hangs down. It is an orange flower, but after flowering, it will bear red berries that hold on for months. I have used this species in my clivia breeding program for its robust and free-flowering genetic features.

As the world turns, times are a changing, but the plant kingdom carries on with her botanical magic and seasonal time capsules

As the human race undergoes this pandemic that has daily bends, curves, unknowns and variables, the world's flora endures. I am amazed as to the precision of seasons and what makes plants tick as we spin about in our solar system. So, take some moments out in the garden and enjoy all of its bounty.

Sea squill bulbs are available from Protea Farms of California in Fallbrook and available as dormant bulbs now at 760-728-4297.

Roger Boddaert, Maker of Natural Gardens, can be reached at 760-728-4297 for assistance, consultations and creative landscape designs and professional tree care.


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