Sweet scents of suc­cess

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

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.

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