Magazine article Sunset

The "Bulbs" of Summer

Magazine article Sunset

The "Bulbs" of Summer

Article excerpt

For easy-care summer bloom, few plants give more satisfaction than the four shown here: agapanthus, amaryllis, crocosmia, and daylilies. All come back each year in greater profusion. You can leave them in place for six years or longer--they bloom best when crowded. Divide only when flowers become sparse, or if you want more plants.

These unthirsty plants are noted survivors of non-maintenance spots such as vacant lots. But for best bloom and attractive foliage, water actively growing plants before soil dries out. All need good drainage.

In areas with coastal influence, all thrive in full sun; inland, provide some afternoon shade to keep flower colors vivid.

You can buy agapanthus and daylilies in containers all year. In summer, you may also find amaryllis and crocosmia for sale in containers. More likely, you'll have to buy them dormant: amaryllis bulbs in fall or spring crocosmia corms (also sold as montbretia) in January.

Space plants or roots of agapanthus, amaryllis, and daylilies 1 to 2 feet apart. Space corms of crocosmia 3 to 4 inches apart in clusters between the other three. Or fill the gaps with a spongy mulch or other flowers. (For more good companions, see page 274 of the May Sunset.) Four bulbous bloomers

Agapanthus is green all year in most of California. It blooms for about two months from May into July, often longer near the coast. Seed-grown plants come in diverse sizes and every gradation of blue to white. If color is important to you, buy plants in bloom. For uniform size, buy plants of the same name that look similar in height and leaf width.

The standard-size agapanthus, A. orientalis (also sold as A. africanus or A. umbellatus), has 4- to 5-foot stalks of blue or white flowers. Intermediate sizes with 2- to 3-foot stems include blue 'Queen Anne', 'Dwarf White', 'Rancho White', and white 'Peter Pan Albus'. Dwarf blue 'Peter Pan' has 1- to 2-foot flower stems and short, narrow leaves; it tends to bloom longer than the other kinds.

At specialty nurseries or arboretum sales, you may find some rarities: 'Huntington Blue' and 'Walter Doty' are dark blue; 'Aurea' and 'Argentea' have cream- or white-edged leaves; 'Mood Indigo'--the only deciduous kind named here--has deep purple flowers.

In cold-winter areas, move agapanthus indoors in winter. …

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