· Some varieties like the Dahlias Café au Lait and Penhill Watermelon sell out quickly. To avoid disappointment, don’t delay ordering summer bulbs. I highly recommend the mail order company Bulbs Direct. They have an incredible selection of bulbs, they’re great quality and deliver straight to your door.
· For best results, plant bulbs, tubers and corms in full sun. If you plant them in a shady place, you may find that they don’t flower at all
· Prepare the soil well. I like to mix compost and sheep pellets into the ground prior to planting
· Sprinkle a little bulb fertiliser when planting each bulb, tuber and corm. For bulbs grown in the ground, use granular bulb fertiliser which comes in bags. For container grown bulbs, use some slow release fertiliser specifically formulated for bulbs, which comes in pottles
· Stake bulbs at the time of planting to avoid damaging the bulb later on. Dahlias, gladioli and lilies all grow tall and benefit from some plant support because they can get knocked over in the wind
· To encourage further flowering, liquid feed bulbs once a week with a soluble plant food
· Don’t be tempted to trim foliage once bulbs have finished flowering. Even though it looks unsightly, the bulb needs it as a source of nourishment otherwise it won’t flower the following year
· At the end of the season, you can leave bulbs in the ground to over-winter and they will resurface the following spring. Alternatively, in autumn you can lift bulbs for storing over winter and replant in spring. Lilies are exceptional and should be left in the ground year round (see below).
· Dahlias can be grown from seed or tuber. Egmont Seeds stock a range of dahlia seeds.
· Bedding dahlias can be grown from seed or purchased in a punnet from garden centres. They will develop a tuber after the first season and reflower in subsequent years. It’s up to you whether you choose to leave them in the ground or lift them in late autumn for storing over winter
· There are many different types of dahlias – cactus, decorative, dinner plate, pom pom, collarette and miniature dahlias suitable for growing in pots, in all sorts of colours. For a dazzling display all summer long, consider planting a variety of different kinds of dahlias.
· Sprinkle a little potash around dahlias as they develop buds to encourage strong, healthy flowers
· It’s worth spending the time to dead-head dahlias once they finish flowering to encourage further blooms
· If you are going to lift and store your dahlia tubers over winter, it’s best to store them in a box with some saw dust and keep them damp
· Lift and divide dahlia tubers every 4-5 years. Make sure that each piece has an ‘eye’ or it won’t flower
· Gladioli make superb cut flowers and look stunning in a vase
· Gladioli flower about 100 days after planting, so stagger planting at fortnightly intervals to ensure a continuous display of flowers
· Rust affects gladioli so if your winters are cold and wet like they are in Auckland, it’s worth spraying plants with a copper-based spray
· Corms will produce cormlets, or little corms. Detach these from the parent bulb and plant them in a separate area of the garden. They should flower in several years time.
· Lilies also make a superb cut flower and look wonderful in a bouquet
· If lilies dry out, they won’t flower. For this reason, don’t lift and store lily bulbs over winter. It’s better to leave them in the ground year round. If you want to move them to a different location after they have finished flowering that’s fine, but be sure to replant them straight away
· Most lilies will multiply so it’s a good idea to lift and divide them every few years. If they become crowded, they won’t flower well
· Tuberous begonias are best grown in containers rather than in the ground
· Use a quality potting mix, not garden soil if planting begonias in pots
· I use 18 litre black plastic pots for growing begonias as I find this is a good size
· I’ve personally found that begonias like being grown in a sheltered area. I always grow ours in our patio, which is enclosed by our house and fences, protecting the plants from extreme temperatures and wind
· You can try growing tuberous begonias from seed. Egmont Seeds stocks a range of begonia seeds. Alternatively, you can purchase tubers from garden centres and through mail order catalogues such as Bulbs Direct.