Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
January, 2005
Regional Report

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Tropical-looking cannas will make your garden exotic and colorful.

Exquisite Summer Bulbs

After the daffodils and grape hyacinths are finished and you think bulb season is over, it's time for the glory of those secret bloomers: the tender summer bulbs. Although not hardy like our tulips and jonquils, they can make an astounding design statement in our northern gardens when planted in containers or directly in the garden. Unusual varieties of tender summer bulbs are finally showing up in garden centers, either in bags for you to plant or already potted up and on their way to giving your garden a distinctly exotic ambience.

The secret to growing these unusual beauties is either to treat them like annuals and discard them after blooming, or bring them indoors in the fall to spend their dormant period in the basement. Many of them need nothing more than to be settled in a dark, dry corner in their pots and ignored until spring.

Exotic Choices
Here are some summer bulbs that will give your garden a tropical "to die for" look:

Aztec lily (Sprekelia formosissima) has bright red, orchid-like flowers atop 1-foot-tall stalks in midsummer.

Hardy gladiolus (Acidanthera bicolor) has strap-like soft green leaves from which emerge 2-foot stalks with delicate sprays of pure white flowers with blood-red centers in summer.

Crinum lily (Crinum bulbispermum) is a 3-foot plant with clusters of lily-like flowers in pale pink with a dark pink throat.

Freesia (Freesia x hybrida) has graceful arching branches with delicate funnel-shaped flowers in shades of pink, white, yellow, and purple. They have an absolutely intoxicating fragrance.

Blood lily (Haemanthus coccineus) is a beauty with 1-foot spikes holding clusters of orange-red, lily-like blossoms.

Tuberose (Polyanthes tuberosa) is known for its clear white, starry flowers with an intense fragrance. It blooms summer to fall.

Tigerflower (Tigridia pavonia) has remarkable flowers of red and yellow with the opposite color spots in the throats. Flowers have three falls and three standards, similar to Japanese iris.

Calla lily (Zantedeschia) sends up deep green leaves with white spots in spring, followed by soft white or pink spathes.

Canna lily (Canna spp.) makes an incredible statement in the garden. There are 2-foot-tall varieties and 6-foot-tall types, all with lush banana-type foliage topped with huge clusters of red, yellow, pink, and white blossoms from spring to fall.

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