Earth wakes to color explosion

Blooms: Early bulbs brighten the scene every spring, and their later cousins go on to decorate summer and fall.

In The Garden

April 22, 2001|By Kathy Van Mullekom | Kathy Van Mullekom,Knight Ridder / Tribune

Daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are popping up everywhere. Their cheerful faces tell us it's time to think about lawns, flowers and energizing days outdoors.

Spring-blooming bulbs are the cornerstones of the garden, the opening acts for the growing season.

Their colorful cousins -- summer-flowering bulbs -- are the encores your garden needs.

Imagine lilies sending their perfume through the companion foliage of coreopsis and coneflower, turning a walk through your garden into a personal aromatherapy sessions.

"Lilies make great companions with other bulbs, perennials and are great butterfly and hummingbird plants," says Brent Heath. "Their beauty and fragrance will take your breath away."

Brent knows the best uses for all kinds of bulbs. His family has grown bulbs on their Gloucester, Va., farm for the past 100 years. Their fields of daffodils, followed by lilies, gingers, cannas, dahlias and summer hyacinth are the foundation of the business -- Brent and Becky's Bulbs -- he has established with his wife.

This time of year, Brent travels the country, showing people how to incorporate summer bulbs into the bold, bright look of a tropical garden, a sunny, hot border and the pleasing personality of a fragrant, evening garden.

"A lot of people these days work and enjoy their gardens in the evening, so it makes sense to have gardens that reflect the evening light," says Brent. He lists Oriental and spider lilies, gingers, 4 o'clocks -- which should be called 8 o'clocks, he says, because they never bloom at 4 -- and light-colored dahlias and caladiums as perfect plants for nighttime enjoyment. "You also can build container gardens with these bulbs," he says.

Brent seldom meets a bulb he dislikes. Here, however, are some he favors:

* Crocosmia 'Lucifer' has "55 mph" flowers in a tomato-red color, says Brent. The plant, which tolerates drought, features dark bronze-green stems.

* Dahlia 'Arabian Night' produces cabernet-wine red, fully double flowers. It's an excellent cut flower, and the more you cut, the more they bloom, says Brent.

* Dahlia 'Edinburgh' is vigorous, producing blossoms that vary from white to purple or a combination.

* Amarcrinum is a hybrid between Crinum and Amaryllis. Deer- and rodent-proof, this plant bears fragrant, funnel-shaped, soft-pink flowers from July to frost.

* Caladium 'Florida Cardinal' features bright burgundy leaves outlined with dark green.

* Canna 'Wyoming' is a classic canna with deep burgundy / green leaves and brilliant orange, semi-self-cleaning flowers (when they're spent, they drop on their own) on midsized stems. The brilliant orange flowers pick up the colors of orange zinnias, marigolds and other flowers to make a "great color echo," says Brent.

"Lilies make great companions with other [plants]. Their beauty and fragrance will take your breath away."

Brent Heath, bulb grower

Buying bulbs

To get the catalog for Brent and Becky's Bulbs, call 804-693-3966 or visit the Web site, www. brentandbeckysbulbs.com.

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