Garden Talk: Beauty and the Bulbs

, posted in Gardening

By Zahrah Nasir

This week, as promised, we are going to take a look at the imported bulbs and corms that you can plant, either in the garden or inside your home, right now and over the next four weeks or so. Leaving it any longer is not a good idea as firstly, you will only find the ‘leftovers’ in the bulb department and, secondly, they may not have enough time to develop properly and flower before temperatures begin to rise which, except for freesias, as they are cool climate bulbs, shortens their flowering time drastically.

Having mentioned freesias, those strongly perfumed and surprisingly durable flowers we all know so well, we will start out with details of their growing requirements and cultivation.

Freesias grow from corms and, unlike many other corms and bulbs, are easily and quickly grown from seed too. When purchasing the corms, it is preferable to avoid those that come in packs of 10 and buy loose ones instead, taking care to ensure that each and every corm selected is healthy and free of obvious damage.

Healthy corms feel smooth and hard to the touch, are ‘plump’ and you will be able to clearly see the area from which roots will emerge. Avoid those that feel rubbery or dry, are dented or which display even the slightest hint of mould.

Freesias require well drained soil/compost with lots of organic material worked in. They can be cultivated in a sunny spot in the garden or planted in clay pots, six corms per 10-inch pot, to be placed on balconies, verandas or on interior window sills which receive plenty of natural light. Plant the corms one and half to two inches deep, allowing three inches between each corm and, when they begin to grow, insert some twigs or other supports that they can be tied to as they can reach a height of 12-18 inches and have a bad habit of falling over. The gorgeously fragrant flowers, in many shades of yellow, white, cream, purple, pink and reds, will appear in the spring and even a single stem of flowers is strong enough to perfume quite a large area.

Freesia corms are one of the few imported species which can be left in the ground after flowering is over. They will, before dying back, produce seeds which should be sown, just under the surface of well draining, rich, moist compost, from May to the end of July or September/October, and the seed pots/trays should be kept in a partially shady location until the seedlings are strong enough to transplant on. Any fallen seeds may just grow themselves and the original corms should come up, multiplying in the process, over many years to come — providing that is, drainage is good and they do not rot during the rains.

Tulips are another favourite although, frankly speaking, their flowers are so short lived in the southern and coastal regions of the country, that they are only really worth cultivating from Lahore northwards and the same must be said of daffodils too although narcissus (these are very closely related to daffodils) are more heat tolerant and do make good pot plants in Karachi.

Tulip bulbs should be checked over thoroughly and damaged or soft ones avoided. Compost/soil should be rich and well drained. If planting out in the garden then raised beds are ideal.

Plant the bulbs three inches apart with the top, pointed part of the bulb, just an inch below the surface. If growing in pots the same instructions apply although you can plant as many as five bulbs in a 10-inch clay pot, one bulb in the centre and the others spaced out around it.

The very same applies to daffodils and narcissus. Great care must be taken, with all bulbs and corms, to ensure that they are not over watered and that drainage is good otherwise they will rot away. Dutch hyacinths are stunning and can be grown directly in the ground, soil/compost prepared as above, in clay pots or suspended just above the water level in clear glass, narrow necked vases, especially designed for the purpose. Grown in soil/compost, they should be planted so that the top of the bulb is just beneath the surface or, if they have already sprouted, with the emerging shoot exposed to the light. If using the water method, great for indoor cultivation, then take care that the base of the bulb sits just above, not in, the water. Roots will emerge quite rapidly and growth is generally strong. Dutch hyacinths are at home in full sunlight or in slightly dappled shade.

Other bulbs and corms to plant now include the following: Crocus, iris, ranunculus, gladioli, sparaxis and, hopefully the importers have got their act together, many more!

 

Picture source: Google.

 

Source: The Dawn, InpaperMagzine

Published on: 10/21/2012

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