Sweet scents of success
MANY years ago I hopefully sowed some freesia seed. After waiting almost a month, nothing appeared. Disappointed, I dug over the area and sowed carrot seed instead.
The result was a superbly colourful carrot bed the following spring and summer, with dozens of fragrant white freesias thriving among the growing carrots.
They looked glorious, but I should have known freesia seeds can take almost two months to germinate in cool soil.
These days I plant freesia corms in midautumn and early winter.
The plants are up in days and continue to thrive like beautiful, fragrant weeds, growing and flowering through spring in warm, slightly impoverished, acidic sandy soils.
Get some in this week and they’ll keep coming up and blooming for decades. They are brilliant value and the flowers are ideal for cutting.
I often plant anemone and ranunculus together because both thrive in the same conditions. It’s a good idea to give the corms an overnight soak first.
Anemone coronaria plants grow from withered, flattish corms, looking like chocolate drops, occasionally with a little blunt point. If you can’t see this point, shove them in edgeways.
They produce some of the most brilliant colours in the spring flower garden. Popular strains include semi- double St Brigid and single- flowered De Caen hybrids.
Ranunculus asiaticus corms look like tiny clusters of brown, withered carrots, stuck together at the top.
The points or “horns” should always be pointing down when planted.
I prefer scattering them over the soil, then pushing them down to the first joint of my finger. Within a couple of weeks the first leaves are poking through.
Both ranunculus and anemone plants insist on perfectly drained soil, crammed with wellcomposted organic matter.
Sparaxis are tough little flowering plants producing dazzling displays in September. Known as Harlequin Flowers, they come in beautifully contrasting colours of black, yellow, white and scarlet.
It’s easy to just press the tiny corms into the soil a few centimetres apart. These gorgeous flowering plants are also ideal for growing in pots.
Snake’s Head fritillary ( Fritillaria meleagris) grows to perfection in the coolest parts of Tasmania. In many ways these strangely beautiful flowers are among the most fascinating of all bulbous plants.
The best I’ve ever seen were growing halfway up a mountain where the soil remained chilly for weeks during winter.
Fortunately there are hundreds of species of oxalis, with only a few that become deadly, invasive weeds.
Some of the most commonly ornamental species include O. hirta, with hazelnut- sized bulbs that tend to push themselves out of the ground.
However, the eye- catching, violet- pink flowers are totally enchanting in a winter garden. After flowering the bulbs can be left in the ground to slowly reproduce over the years.
The much smaller O. versicolor makes a fantastic border plant – some are already in flower in parts of Tasmania.
They are also called Barber Poles because when closely furled, the tiny white petals have red borders, so each flower closely resembles the traditional barber- shop sign.
Crocuses need long periods in cold soil before they flower. In Tasmania, the best crocus displays are usually found in mountain gardens where temperatures drop below freezing every night for months.
The hybrid Pickwick has beautifully marked petals and a golden throat, while Goldilocks lights up its corner of the garden during late winter. In pots, troughs and tubs, C. sieberi Violet Queen is absolutely stunning and never fails to delight.
A common characteristic of many bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers in autumn is their withered, dry and generally unattractive appearance.
After planting there is nothing to see at first and it’s sometimes a long wait before they begin to pop through the soil.
Eventually leaves form, then stems and buds suddenly erupt as those amazingly beautiful flowers open, always at a time when most of us are craving colour in the garden.
These are the unforgettable rewards anyone, skilled or unskilled, can obtain from just a just a little effort right now.
CORM BLIMEY: Crocuses provide a magnificent, colourful display.