Puttin’ on a show with summer bulbs

Well, you know how much I love spring-blooming bulbs right? My front garden is a kaleidoscope come Easter.

Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'

A few years ago, I also discovered I have a penchant for summer bulbs. After I had such good luck with ‘Atomic’  and Byzantine glads and G. callianthus, Abyssinian glads, I can no longer see my garden without summer bulbs. The bright red of ‘Atomic’ a/k/a  ‘Atom’ glads or ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlias really make a summer border. I don’t try to grow the dinner plate dahlias anymore. Our heat makes them not want to bloom, and the insects make a light lunch of them. However, the smaller, more branching dahlias perform very well here. I found the gorgeous red ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlias along with the yellow w/chocolate button-eyed ‘Lolo’ and pink and orange ‘Pablo’ at my local nursery. You can also find many of these diverse summer bulbs at Old House Gardens or Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Both have a good selection of summer favorites.

Gladiolus 'Atomic' Hemerocallis 'Mauna Loa'

I like the shorter glads because they don’t need as much propping up as the taller ones in our wind. I’m also trying lilies again because I miss the trumpet shapes once the daylilies are through at the end of June. Oriental lilies and Orienpets usually bloom here in July. I chose ‘Black Beauty’ last year, and this summer I’m trying Lilium ‘Casa Blanca,’ a white. I’ll let you know how they do later in the summer. Note that although many sources will tell you lilies are easy to grow, but I find they are not that easy or reliable here. Our heat makes for a first-year show, but they often dwindle in years thereafter. Still, nothing smells like a true lily. I hope the ‘Black Beauty’ lilies return. It was such a hard summer I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t.

'Black Beauty' lilies from last summer.

Asiatic lilies, Lilium asiatic, on the other hand, which bloom earlier, I find easy to grow. Too bad I don’t like their foliage. Remember, daylilies aren’t true lilies at all, they are just called such because of their flowers’ trumpet shape. They are instead, Hemerocallis.

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora, 'Antique Montbretia' with a Griffith Buck rose in front 'April Moon' (not blooming), coleus and red 'Ruby Throat' daylilies in back.

These are some of the new summer bulbs I’m trying this summer, along with crinum, crocosmia, calla lilies, cannas, caladiums, Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ and Colocasia (elephant ears). Interesting that so many summer bulbs have names which start with the letter “C.”

I’d also like to try Hedychium, a/k/a butterfly ginger. I wonder how it would perform in hot, dry Oklahoma. Perhaps, I’ll see.

To bring a bit of mystery to the summer garden, try summer bulbs because not everyone grows them. You can be the first one on your block to try butterfly ginger. Perhaps, you’ll start a trend.



  1. Dee, every spring when I was growing up the purple crocus were the flowers that beat everything else. I love your photograph of the purple blooms. ~

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks so much Kelly. If you grow crocus ever again, try the tommies. They do better here.

  2. Martha says:

    Hi Dee – Your photos are gorgeous. Black Beauty comes back year after year for me but the Atom glads have thinned out over the years. They are so wonderful that I will re-order because, like you, I can’t imagine being without them.
    Happy Spring and good growing.

  3. Thanks for sharing some of your favorites, Dee. My co-author for HEIRLOOM BULBS FOR TODAY has a great selection of bulbs, too. He owns The Southern Bulb Company. My daffs are finishing up, irises and leucojum are popping and should have some nice Byzantine glads in the next few weeks. c:

    1. Yes, yes he does. As you know, I profiled your book on here. http://reddirtramblings.com/flowers/tell-me-a-story-a-review-of-heirloom-bulbs-for-today

      It’s a great book.

  4. Gail says:

    Dee, I am trying ‘Atomic’ this summer (after seeing it in your garden) and last year the Byzantines were a delight….also your recommendation. Thank you dear! I’ve a month or so after the last day lily fades and before late summer blooms open that could use a few dahlias; I might try the ‘Bishop’~it gets pretty hot here, too and I’ve had no luck with larger flowered ones. xogail

  5. I bought Gladiolus byzantine last fall and have them coming up in my garden. First saw them at Pam Harper’s garden in VA. Love the magenta color. In VA I had Casa Blanca, it did well until the voles got to it….well, that and the salt water. 🙁 Can’t wait to see all your lilies pop and fill the landscape.

  6. Carol says:

    I love a good trend in the garden. I started growing more lilies from bulbs and I love them. They really add height to the perennial borders.

  7. Les says:

    Around here Hedychium does well, perhaps too well. If it is happy it can quickly out grow its space. I know they are winter hardy in zone 7a, and I know they can take the occasional dry spell, but probably not biblical drought like you had last year.

  8. CurtissAnn says:

    Oh, beautiful!! I am inspired, well beyond my capacities. 🙂 Did any of the little glad corms I sent bloom? They are once again coming up all over the place. Last year got next to nothing in the drought, but they do not appear diminished when we get rain. I am now into daylilies, and you are to be credited, or blamed, depending. 🙂 Love you, Demeter.

  9. Vickie Moore says:

    Summer bulbs! I love this! My beds look empty and sad after the daffodils and tulips are through. This may be just the thing! Thanks for suggesting shorter glads – didn’t know there was such a thing. I may try packing them in like Lisa suggested. Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. LaDonna Evans says:

    Okay you tempted me into order summer bulbs! I have Old House Gardens cart ready, hope they like my garden!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh good LaDonna!!! I’m so glad you’re making the leap. You know, some don’t like mine, and they aren’t replanted. Others thrive here like the ‘Atom’ ‘Atomic’ glads. They love it here. I can’t wait to see yours.~~Dee

  11. RobinL says:

    I am not very good with summer bulbs! I always swear I will dig up my dahlias, but then it gets cold and I wimp out. This year, I finally remembered to dig them up, but there they still sit on my potting bench in the garage. I wonder if they got too chilly. That red gladiola is so pretty, I really do need to try some glads since I’ve never grown them before. Wish me luck!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Okay, Robin, I have a confession . . . I don’t dig up those blasted dahlias. I just don’t have the time. If they don’t want to live here, it’s okay with me. I think if the ones on your potting bench aren’t squishy, it’s a go to give them a try. I am so wishing you all of the luck and blessings a garden can give.

  12. sweetbay says:

    I am drooling over your summer bulbs. Alas, I wonder how many of these the voles would droop over also. Black Beauty is gorgeous.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yeah, voles are the pits. Mine are in raised beds with decorative, concrete blocks. Perhaps, that’s why I don’t have vole problems in those beds. Now, ask me about the bed which faces the street. Sheesh!

  13. Layanee says:

    I will have to consider some ‘Atomic’ surprises for the coming season. I now have the scent of lilies on my mind.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Layanee, you should. It is the most spectacular red.

  14. commonweeder says:

    Beautiful post. I love those Atomic glads. I have Black Beauty and Casa Blanca lilies, and some Henryi lilies – in honor of my husband. This year I am adding the Gloriosa lily (not really a lily) and some Tigridias from Brent and Becky’s in pots.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Pat, thank you. I love those too. I would like some ‘Henryi’ lilies. Can’t wait to see your gloriosa and tigridias. Yum.

  15. Frances says:

    After seeing Atom growing in your lovely garden, Dee, I must have it! I do hope your lilies come back and the new ones do well for you. Black Beauty is the latest bloomer here, and is a giant, needing several stakes to hold up all those flowers. I know, what a problem to have!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Frances, I’ve found it’s easy to grow. My ‘Black Beauties’ were like a dwarf type. Perhaps, it was their first year? I don’t know as much about lilies as other plants.

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    The bulbs you have shown us do seem to give the garden some umph when it needs it. I will have to try some of these. I love glads. There was an old fellow who lived not far from me that used to put a whole garden full of glads in. They were packed in so tight they kept each other upright. The bees and hummers loved it. This is the perfect post for me to read this morning since there is snow on the ground. Come on Summer. 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, I love glads too. They are so pretty. That’s a lot of bulbs to pack them in so tight, but I love the idea.

  17. Lea says:

    Yes, indeed, summer bulbs!
    I have a huge patch of the yellow-orange day lilies, and a few clumps of reddish ones.
    And elephant ears – wonderful!
    Summer will follow spring so fast it’ll make us dizzy!
    Happy gardening!
    Lea’s Menagerie

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lea, I love daylilies! Can’t wait to show you mine come summer. It won’t long now. Happy Gardening to you too!

  18. I also love summer bulbs and have a few of the same as pictured here…they bring so much color…nice to think of them again soon…

    1. Dee Nash says:

      It won’t be long now Donna will it? I can’t wait.

  19. Leslie says:

    I hope your Black Beauty comes back…that is just lovely!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Me too Leslie. Me too. Fingers are firmly crossed.

  20. Sonia Kirk says:

    I love summer bulbs especially the lilies!! I adore Stargazers and the Casa Blanca’s have such a beautiful aroma! I spent the afternoon cleaning out flower beds…can’t wait till Spring! Would love to see your garden someday when it’s in full bloom!
    Miss Bloomers

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sonia, I would love to have you come see my garden. In only a couple of months, the show really starts. Thanks for stopping by.

  21. We have to dig glads up every fall and replant in the spring. I bet you don’t. I do want to try that Atom one of these days.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Kathy, we used to have to dig them up, but not the last few years for sure. ‘Atom’ might be good in a special spot.

  22. Beautiful Dee thank you for the lovely share

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Annie, thank you so much for stopping by. I’m going over to read how your moo poo tea saved a dying rose.

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