Callas, dahlias, gladiolus, and lilies are like old friends who go away for winter, and then return in spring refreshed and exuberant.
Jewel-bright dahlias are first to reappear in April and May, followed by spears of gladiolus in June. Then come star-shaped Asiatic lilies, and callas, whose blooms look like fluted cups. Oriental hybrids make a grand entrance in August; their large flowers perfume the whole garden.
Elegant as they are, white callas pale beside the newer, more vivid dwarf calla hybrids. Colored callas, ranging from 1 to 2 feet tall, make excellent border plants, and they thrive when massed in large (16- to 18-inch-diameter) containers.
Our favorites: 'Mango' (shown here) bears brilliant orange flowers with red flames and red-orange throats. Plants grow 2 feet tall. 'Flame' looks similar (yellow-orange blooms resembling candle flames darken to red as they age).
Festive, easy, and available in many shapes and sizes, dahlias are summer's perfect flower. Plants grow from 15 inches tall to 5 feet or more and come in rich colors with eye-catching frills, splashes, or stripes.
Our favorite: Waterlily Dahlia Mix includes oranges, pinks, reds, yellows, and bicolors. Blooms are 4 to 6 inches across and face upward, making them ideal for bouquets or for floating in a glass bowl. Plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall.
Garden gladiolus produce flower spikes 3 to 6 feet tall and bear widely flaring flowers (up to 30 per spike). In addition to common colors such as apricot, green, lavender, orange, purple, red, rose, and yellow, they now come in exciting new blends such as bright yellow with orange throats ('Jester'), Easter egg pink and yellow ('Mon Amour'), and shades of salmon ('Columbine').
Our favorite: 'Far West' (shown here) bears flowers of deep garnet splashed with yellow. All blooms open at once on plants 3 to 4 feet tall.
These are the easiest and most reliable lilies for the average garden. What they lack in fragrance they make up for in color -- from bright orange, red, and yellow to rust, pink, salmon, and snowy white. Stems are strong and short (1 1/2 feet) to moderate (4 1/2 feet).
Our favorite: Strawberries & Cream Mix, a blend of colors from pinks, rose, and cream (shown here) to magenta, on plants 30 to 40 inches tall.
The most exotic and fragrant lily hybrids, Oriental lilies bloom July into September. Long-lasting 5- to 10-inch flowers come in pink, red, or white, sometimes spotted with yellow and banded with red. Most are tall (2 to 5 feet), including 'Casablanca' (white) and 'Salmon Jewels' (peach with butter yellow centers).
Our favorite: The Perfumed Garden Oriental Lily Mix includes shades of cream, crimson, pink, and white, all very fragrant.