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Now I Doo Requests!
Member Name: Aspen
Date: 12/02/01, updated on 12/02/01 (343 review reads)
Advantages: A scent to die for.
Disadvantages: A bit fussy, need care to grow successfully.
I’ve never had a request before. Not a polite one, anyway. So when a respected contributor – who ought, I suppose , to remain anonymous – asked me, by way of a comment on my "Birch" opinion, to write on this subject, I should have been chuffed.
I say, should have been. Actually, I’ve been knocked right off my eggs here.
You see, it’s quite easy to appear reasonably knowledgeable, when I choose the topics, and take no questions from the floor.
Have you ever watched some of these gardening programmes, where members of the public bring in plants (usually desperately sick ones!), and ask the advice of the collected “experts”?
Yes? Then you’ll know that gardeners run second only to politicians when it comes to answering a question without answering it.
“What’s causing these mouldy patches on my Mother-in-Law’s Tongue?”
Then will follow a lengthy, and probably entertaining, monologue on the best growing conditions for said plant, how to propagate it, when to re-pot it. Then a digression into other house plants for shady places. Followed by a few Latin names. Then maybe a few unpronounceable pests and diseases.
And only later, possibly after you’ve gone to bed, does the disturbing realisation hit you.
You still have no idea what’s causing the mouldy bits on your Mother-in-Law’s Tongue.
As a landscape gardener, I do trees and shrubs. I do patios and paving. I do waterfalls and rockeries. I even dabble in woodland management and conservation.
I don’t really do . . .
(Well, I can’t put it off any longer. I thought I could maybe waffle my way through this without ever mentioning what it was about. But I guess somebody would notice. And a barrow load of NU’s would do my Dooyoo cr
ed no favours at all. So. )
. . . .Freesias.
If I break all the rules now, by writing on something I know nothing about, blame frui . .er . . the Forementioned Contributor (henceforth referred to as FC, for the sake of both brevity and anonymity).
I posted this under “Bulbs”. I doubt if Freesias merit a topic all on their own. And I know that strictly speaking, they are not bulbs but corms. But bulbs, corms, tubers – they tend all to be popularly known as bulbs, and I think we should leave it at that, and not get too technical.
Freesias are best known, and best treated, as flowers for a cool greenhouse or conservatory. They are classed as half-hardy perennials, and will only overwinter successfully outdoors in your borders if you really are in the mildest part of the country. Don’t ask me to define that. Gardening as I do in the . erm . . “bracing” climate of North East Scotland, I can but dream of the concept of “mildest part”. I’d be interested to hear of anyone’s success with year-round outdoor freesias.
The natural flowering period of the freesia is late winter and early spring, but you can readily buy specially prepared corms for summer flowering, and you will find these less demanding to grow.
Plant untreated corms in late summer/autumn for early flowering, and treated ones in early spring for summer flowering. Either way, plant the corms in individual small pots, in a mix of two parts potting compost to one part sharp sand or grit. The grit improves the drainage, as freesias dislike being too wet. If you are growing in a greenhouse, it must be frost free. A windowsill will do, but too much heat is as bad as not enough, and ideally the temperature should not be above 13C. Avoid full sun, too, which is a point to consider in a conservatory especially.
I would also cover the surface of the compost with a thin layer of sharp sand or gr
it, as I have found them susceptible to neck or stem rot, and the grit keeps the surface drier, and reduces this risk.
(Okay, I confess. I lied. I have grown them. Both from corms and from seed. But not often!)
Now you’re wondering why I say, plant them individually in small pots? Why not all in a big bowl? The answer to that is control. You cannot control exactly when they will flower. They will not all flower together. So wait until the flower buds appear, select a few at the same stage, then repot them together in a larger container. And when your friends say “Wow! I can never get mine to flower all at the same time!”, give a quiet, self-satisfied smirk, but divulge our little secret to no-one.
The early-flowering ones will have to remain indoors, of course, but you can bring them in to any room of your choosing, because once they have begun to bloom, temperature becomes less important. They’ve started, so they’ll finish. And you must have them close at hand, to benefit from the heady scent.
Summer flowering freesias can go in an outdoor container, and add wonderful scent and colour to the patio. You can even treat then as bedding plants, and plant them into the border. But remember to take them in before the colder nights come along.
Start feeding when the flower buds begin to show, with any high potash fertiliser. Tomato food is as good as any – use it for all your flowering plants. Keep feeding for a wee while after the flowers fade, because the foliage is then fattening up the bulb (sorry, corm) for next season. When the leaves begin to die back, gradually reduce watering, then stop altogether. The corms can be lifted, dried off (naturally, not with too much heat), and stored in a cool, dry place until planting time comes round again.
Freesias can be grown from seed, but I don’t recommend this unless you’re really keen and don’t mind a few disappointmen
ts. My results have been, shall we say, mixed. Damping off of the seedlings is a constant problem. Temperature requirements are pretty crucial, too. And colours don’t come true from seed. Stick with the corms. Freesias, as you may have gathered, are a bit fussy anyway, so don’t make it harder for yourself than necessary.
Yes, they are a bit of work. But for colour, and especially scent, they are hard to beat. But of course, it being the 11th of February as I write, I can’t help but think that some could appear magically from the florist for you in a couple of days. That would be so much easier!
Excuse me while I wipe the perspiration off the keyboard. Trees I can write about off the top of my head. This has been a very good excercise for me. I even had to check one or two facts in my Big Boys Book of Gardening.
And now I wonder if this was a test. Did the FC set me a challenge on a subject I knew nothing about, deliberately? Will the next request be about mouldy bits on Mother-in-Law’s Tongues? (Don’t even think about it!)
Let it not be said Aspen didn’t pick up the gauntlet :-)