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Grow Your Own Future: Exotic containers with summer exotics

Bulbs are often the ‘wow’ points of our gardens.
Who can ignore the tantalizing tropical scent of acidanthera, the wondrous colour of the begonias in the shady parts, or the majestic stature of the cannas or gladiolus?

There is nothing better than planting a container full of exotic beauty to enjoy in your landscape all summer long. Summer flowering bulbs and tender annuals will help you to do this as they bring a little bit of beauty that is a bit exotic. Most of these selections originate in sub-tropical or tropical regions so are used to warmth and humidity and of course will need to be lifted prior to the fall temperatures dropping substantially.

It is these bulbs that are often the “wow” points of our gardens. Who can ignore the tantalizing tropical scent of acidanthera, the wondrous colour of the begonias in the shady parts, or the majestic stature of the cannas or gladiolus? If you are not yet growing some of these less hardy bulbs then maybe this is the year to begin.

Acidanthera are exotic members of the iris family. They have a delicious scent that will waft over your outdoor areas if planted close. They are white (perfect for night gardens), grow about 24 inches high with a white star-shaped bloom with a centre of deep purple. They are naturally found in semi-alpine conditions in Ethiopia so do not need a really rich soil. Plant them about three inches deep with about five inches between bulbs.

Begonias are gorgeous in the shady areas of the garden. They come in a range of colours from reds to pinks, yellows and whites and even a number of purples and apricots. The pendulous types are great in hanging baskets while the uprights are good in beds or containers. Plant in partial to full shade and be sure you do not plant them too deeply as they are a shallow-rooted plant.

Caladiums are a showy plant that will give any landscape a tropical flair. They are actually grown for their large colour leaves. They come in multi-colours with swirls and splashes of red, green, white and pink. Plant them in the shade and even bring them in as a house plant as summer wanes.

Canna lilies are beautiful everywhere. Their bloom colours range from white to orange, yellow, pink red and even bi-colour. They are native to the West Indies and South America so are considered not hardy. They are superb summer bloomers with not only a great bloom but often have coloured and textured leaves. Do not plant these plants in windy areas as the foliage will be damaged. Some species can grow up to 10 feet in height but can also be as small as 2 feet. Plant in full sun and remove spent flowers to encourage more bloom.

Dahlias are easily one of the top selling summer flowering bulbs. There are literally hundreds of selections to choose from with all the colours of the rainbow. Many gardeners will pot up their dahlias a good six weeks prior to going outside to ensure the longest, loveliest period of bloom. They are long blooming so can be planted in borders, beds or containers and even make a great cut-flower. Just a word of caution – once you begin to grow dahlias you might get addicted to trying them all.

I was recently given a tour of Fernlea Flowers in Delhi Ont. What an amazing array of beautiful flowers as well as their impressive veggie line. Look for the Rio™ line of plants and you will be sure to be satisfied with the health and vigour of those plants. Also incorporating some other "exotics" like palms, crotons and other tropicals that we generally only use for solariums or in our homes. Pair these selections up with other annual basket stuffers and enjoy the show!

Hanbidge is the Lead Horticulturist with Orchid Horticulture. Find us at; by email at [email protected]; on Facebook @orchidhort and Instagram at #orchidhort.

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