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Fall-planted bulbs bridge the season from spring to summer

Spring Valley mix foxtail lilies and Allium christophii bridge the season from spring into summer. Photo courtesy brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Spring Valley mix foxtail lilies and Allium christophii bridge the season from spring into summer. Photo courtesy brentandbeckysbulbs.com

You know that gap between spring and summer, when there’s nothing blooming in the garden? It’s after the spring bulbs, columbine (Aquilegia) and Iris have bloomed but before coneflowers (Echinacea) and bee balm (Monarda) come on.

What’s missing are the bridge flowers, said Brent Heath, co-owner of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, who will be in town for several speaking engagements and a hands-on workshop.

Gardeners just are not as familiar with them as they are the big three, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, said Heath, who with his wife, Becky Heath, wrote Daffodils for American Gardens and Tulips for North American Gardens.

Most bulbs prefer it more dry than wet.

Bridge flowers at their best: white and purple Allium, white foxtail lilies, blue Dutch iris, Indian hyacinth, Dichelostemma (pink flowers), small, early lilies (Lilium) and ‘Starlight’ Triteleia (straw-colored flowers). Photo courtesy brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Bridge flowers at their best: white and purple Allium, white foxtail lilies, blue Dutch iris, Indian hyacinth, Dichelostemma (pink flowers), small, early lilies (Lilium) and ‘Starlight’ Triteleia (straw-colored flowers). Photo courtesy brentandbeckysbulbs.com 

“Most bulbs like to sleep in dry beds,” he said during a telephone interview. On his recommended list for fall planting: Allium, Calochortus, Camassia, Dichelostemma, Dracunculus, Dutch Iris, Eremurus, Nectaroscordum and Triteleia.

Plant these bulbs in full sun and well-drained soil. Many are hardy here, but some are not, so check a bulb’s hardiness. As with all bulbs, once the flowers are done, allow the foliage to turn yellow or brown before removing it. I have grown some of these and they do, indeed, bridge the season. They also are terrific cut flowers. Here are few of my favorite late-spring, early summer bulbs.

Foxtail lilies (Eremurus) get 3-4 feet tall with spikes of yellow, orange, white or pinkish flowers. Plant in full sun, hardy to USDA Zone 5. Foxtail lilies are good cut flowers.

Indian hyacinth (Camassia) is a North American native plant that has blue or white star-like flowers atop 30-inch tall plants. I have two patches of camassia and it’s gorgeous, but if the weather heat up, these start to look a little bedraggled pretty quickly. Plant in full sun. Camassia is fully hardy throughout Indiana.

Allium atropurpureum and A. giganteum show up just when you think the spring bulb show is over. These ornamental onions have tall stalks topped with balls of blooms. Hardy in Indiana, but grow them in full sun and well-drained soil.

Learn more

Heath will speak about companion plants for bulbs, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16, Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 Central Ave. Fee is $5, limited seating. Sponsored by the Marion County and Garfield Park Master Gardeners.

Bulbs for Forcing Lecture and Workshop, 10 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, Lilly House, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road. Fee is $40 for members, $50, nonmembers. Sponsored by the IMA.

Bridge Flowers Lecture, 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, DeBoest Lecture Hall at the IMA. Free.

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