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Freesias and Tulips
Breeding experiments turned two bulbous plants from different continents into the late-winter- and spring-flowering darlings of gardeners all over the world.
The nose-pleasing blooms we’re able to plant today hale from a genus of 14-16 species of flowering plants in the family Iridaceae, all of which are native to Africa, and many from the Cape region. Freesias lay dormant during the hot, dry summers, are nurtured by the cooler weather and ample rains of autumn and winter, and then bloom fragrantly and beautifully in spring.
Freesias are beautiful additions to any garden, whether you cluster them in beds or create a colourful display in containers. They can also make gorgeous houseplants and are very popular commercial cut flowers. If you plant the bulbs at intervals, then successions of blooms will grace your garden, which is ideal for cutting.
- Freesias are best planted from mid-April to May, and you will expect to see the stunning blooms from August to September.
- Freesias prefer slightly acidic, organic-rich soil with ample drainage.
- Freesias do not require excessive watering. A good rule of thumb is to leave the soil dry for a few days between each watering.
- Plant freesias in bold patches in sunny to partly sunny locations – they look delightful grown in masses in the garden. Expect to see spectacular white, red, lilac, yellow and pink, elegant, funnel-shaped blooms that begin to open the base and unfold upwards. The flowers appear among the foliage on long spikes.
Tulips require ‘cold treatment’ or ‘forcing’ to grow and flower successfully in South African gardens, which is the reason why we have to order the bulbs either directly from a bulb supplier or a nursery that provides this service.
Spring-flowering bulbs like tulips are very hardy. In fact, they like the cold of winter. As soil temperatures cool, the bulbs begin root growth, which continues until temperatures become very cold. Then, just as temperatures begin to rise, shoot growth begins, followed by flowering. Forcing is simply deliberate manipulation of this cycle.
Commercial growers are able to artificially create the conditions necessary to convince tulip bulbs to flower from mid-winter in South Africa, and in early June they are released from their cold rooms for prompt delivery to eagerly awaiting gardeners. They must be planted straight away, as they have no shelf life at all.
Eight weeks after planting, provided they have been watered correctly, they will burst into flamboyant colour. Not only will flowers last much longer in late July and August than in our warm October weather, but treated bulbs grow more vigorously than the ordinary kind, and they produce larger flowers on much stronger stems. If you like, you can pop a few choice bulbs into pots when they arrive. Keep them in the garden in a semi-shaded position until they flower and then choose a light, airy position inside your home and enjoy them indoors as well.
Top tip from Hadeco
Don’t forget the ‘Three F’s’: Water your bulbs for Forty minutes, with a sprinkler, every Four days and don’t Forget.