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How to make spring flowers last long into summer | Life and style

Each year when the first spring bulbs start to come into their own, I take it as a seasonal cue to start planting their summer successors, it’s like planning what you fancy for dessert halfway through a slap-up lunch. As I sit looking out at a cloud of perfect magnolia blossom, here’s the list I am drawing up for the months to come…

Here in the UK, we don’t tend to think of orchids as outdoor plants. However, there are a range of perfectly hardy species that offer up good early summer interest. I love Bletilla striata alba for its delicate white blooms. These woodland plants thrive in deep, rich soil in dappled shade, but will fare well too with their heads in the sun, but feet in the shade.

If you want something bolder for early summer, track down Zantedeschia ‘Herculus’, a giant, hardy hybrid of the calla lily. Capable of reaching up to 6ft, with enormous, immaculately white spathes high above silver-flecked leaves, this guy is all about shock and awe, yet somehow still incredibly elegant. It loves spots in full sun, away from high winds that can damage their huge leaves. They will even be happy in large pots, too, and are perfect for patios or decks.

Recent breakthroughs in plant breeding have also given us a new generation of cold-hardy hippeastrums, such as ‘Swan Lake’ that, come mid-summer, will open up to reveal the soft green centres of their pearly white trumpets. In late summer, Crinum x powellii ‘Album’ will carry on the show, kicking out scented trumpets through September and beyond. They both demand as much sun as possible and prefer sandy, well drained soils, but are otherwise fuss-free.

If you have a sheltered spot, the ginger lily Hedychium coronarium offers up an unbeatable gardenia fragrance from its pale, butterfly-like blooms right up until the first frosts. While these tender tropicals can be bedded out in the garden for the warmer months of the year, keeping them in large pots means they can be easily moved to a bright spot or brought indoors as temperatures start to fall, to keep the scent of spring going right on into winter.

Finally, even if you have no garden at all, here are two indoor options for you. The spider lily Hymenocallis festalis is like an otherworldly daffodil, with long, recurved, snow-white petals with a hauntingly sweet scent, and still compact enough to make a good houseplant.

If you have space for just one more (and let’s be honest, there is always space for just one more), check out the Amazon lily Eucharis amazonica for its fragrant, pendant flowers set above a rosette of glossy green leaves.

Follow James on Twitter @Botanygeek

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