I had a lovely card from Liz, who lives at Denmead, whose wedding bouquet contained freesias and now she wants to know how to grow them.
September is a good time to plant freesia corms for flowering next Easter.
They are among the most fragrant flowers which may be grown in a greenhouse or conservatory. All they require in the way of heat is the assurance that the temperature will not fall below freezing.
If you don’t have a greenhouse these gems may be grown indoors if you have a large window with plenty of light.
But be warned. By the time Easter comes you will think you live in a field because the grass-like foliage grows like mad and can reach four feet high if grown in a window. I have never known such an untidy plant; great grassy leaves which fall over the pot’s edge, tied up with sticks and string making it appear more like a bonfire than a cultivated gem.
They can be supported by hazel twigs or other fan-shaped sticks so the foliage doesn’t flop. Put about five pieces of hazel, or beech, fans about two feet high around the pot’s rim and soon most of the sticks will be hidden by the foliage.
I remember being shown this when I was an apprentice. Bill Hedges, the head gardener on the Staunton Estate near Rowlands Castle, was wonderfully inspiring about how to do things correctly. He said: ‘If it’s done properly, the sprays of hazel won’t be visible in a few weeks.’
Freesias enjoy a deep root run so a six-inch clay pot is ideal. Plant any time now. Use John Innes number three compost but mix in 10 per cent extra potting sand to keep the compost well drained.
Insert five or six corms around the pot’s edge ensuring the corms are buried with the tips showing about a quarter of an inch above the surface.
Water well and keep the compost moist. Never stand the pot in water for days at a time otherwise they will fail.
Why use a clay pot and John Innes Compost? A clay pot is six times heavier than a plastic one and JI compost is twice as heavy as loamless compost. This will prevent the plant flopping.
If you have not bought your corms, they are available in packs at garden centres. Ensure they are the indoor type because some varieties are especially treated to flower outdoors. They are not suitable for growing during the winter.
The colours are normally mixed, but let’s hope you get some red and gold ones which will be lovely at Easter.
If you, like Liz, would like an article on a special subject, drop me a line and I will give it some thought.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Invasion of forget-me-not seedlings? Dig them out and put them together in a border five inches apart. Now treat yourself to some pink tulips and plant them between the forget-me-nots.