Plant Now: Freesias

Bunch of spring flowers
Freesia Gabrielle
I get ridiculously excited when new cut flower varieties are released, like this gorgeous freesia called ‘Gabrielle’, from GardenPost (bottom image). Grown commercially for the cut flower market, its long stems (40cm high) and fragrant white flowers are ideal for picking.

Freesia corms can be planted now for late winter/spring blooms. Plant corms 5cm deep and 8-10cm apart in a well-drained spot in sun or light shade. Blooms typically appear 110-120 days after corms are planted. Stagger planting times for a longer flowering season, but don’t plant out too late – flowering during longer days reduces the number of flowers per raceme as well as the number of lateral flower stems. Optimum soil temperature for flower initiation is 12-15degC.

Plant Now: Anemones

Anemones are my all-time favourite spring bulbs – these and ranunculus which come a very close second. I have a whole lot of the divine Anemone ‘Bordeaux’ (top image) sitting in the fridge at the moment, ready for planting out. (‘Bordeaux’ is pretty much sold out in New Zealand. Though if you’re lucky you may still find a pack at your local garden centre. These came from GardenPost, also sold out.) Anemones can be planted from now until May (late autumn). An earlier planting will produce winter blooms, a later one will give you spring blooms.

To break dormancy and encourage germination and good flower production, place corms in the fridge prior to planting (six weeks for anemones, four weeks for ranunculus). Then soak for a few hours in tepid water before planting out in full sun. Plant corms with the pointy side down.

Anemones are gluttons for food. Feed with a general purpose fertiliser once a month and keep well watered.

Plant Now: Tulips


Pink tulips in a bowlPink tulips in a bowlBunch of Tulips
Tulip bulbs can be planted now – and up to June in warm areas. Plant at least twice the depth of the bulb, in a sunny position in deep, rich, well-drained soil. Add slow-release fertiliser to the soil when planting.

Tulips grow well in containers too, but potted tulips must be kept in a cool spot for several months for flowers to bloom successfully. Pots quickly heat up in sun, so place in a shady part of the garden and water enough to keep the soil just moist. When the first shoots appear, shift the container into strong light and then gradually into direct sunlight and increase watering.

Plant Now: Lily of the Valley

Lily-of-the-valley flowers on whitelily of the valleyFamed for its sweet perfume, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) grows in clumps in fertile, humus-rich, moist soil in shade. Its pure white bells are produced on 20cm high stems in spring. Occasionally you’ll find pink varieties too. These plants grow best in cold climates, naturalising well under trees.

You can plant the pips (rhizomes) now (autumn). Soak the pips in lukewarm water for several hours before planting, until they swell and become hard. Choose different areas to grow; a little more sun in one area and dappled shade in another will give you slightly different flowering times, extending your picking season.

When growth appears, apply liquid fertiliser to promote further good growth. Flower and leaf can be cut together for the vase, the flowers lasting about five days.

Plant Now: Freesias

freesias white and orange
freesia whiteBlooming FreesiaFor pretty blooms and exquisite scent, plant freesia corms now. These late winter or early spring flowers pay great dividends. Plant them once and they will reappear year after year, and they’ll expand each year too.

Plant corms 5cm deep and 8-10cm apart in a well-drained soil in full sun or light shade. Blooms appear 110-120 days after corms are planted. Stagger planting times for a longer flowering season, but don’t plant out too late – flowering during longer days reduces the number of flowers per raceme as well as the number of lateral flower stems. Optimum soil temperature for flower initiation is 12-15degC.

Plant Now: Snake’s head fritillary

Snakeshead Fritillary

The snake’s head fritillary, also known as chequered lily (Fritillaria meleagris), produces fine bells of maroon or reddish purple and white chequers in spring. They look very exotic in bouquets and equally so in the garden. In their native Europe these plants are commonly found in damp grasslands and meadows, so they grow well in shady, moist areas. The bulbs are best planted in late summer or early autumn. Bulbs are available from mailorder specialists, like NZ Bulbs and GardenPost.

Sumptuous blooms

purple flowers
purple flowers2
One cannot help but fall in love with Sarah Ryhanen’s designs. Her colour and flower choices are exquisite. Here she uses purple ranunculus, purple and white chequered fritillarias, white grape hyacinths, double white daffodils and white bauble-like berzelia. I can’t get enough of them.

See more of Sarah’s designs here.

Plant Now: Ranunculus

Ranunculus corms are in garden centres now, so buy some and bung them in the fridge. A cold spell helps to break dormancy and encourages germination and good flower production. Four weeks is a good time. After that, soak them in tepid water for a few hours, then plant them out, with their claws facing down. If you plant them now you’ll get winter blooms, a little later and you’ll get spring blooms. Don’t forget to feed your plants. Ranunculi are greedy guts. Feed them once a month with a general purpose fertiliser.

Spring picks

Peach wedding bouquet
Oh, I so love spring blooms, particularly anemones, ranunculus, poppies, tulips and peonies. They’re all so elegant and full of petals, and the soft romantic hues or sumptuous deep reds and purples have me quaking in my gumboots.

Who could not love these two arrangements? The display at the top comes from Ariella Chezar and the bouquet at the bottom comes from Wedding Chicks (click here to get a complete ‘ingredient’ list).

Grape hyacinths

Grape hyacinthGrape hyacinthMuscari grape hyacinth
I do love grape hyacinths, and any beginner gardener or home florist should get to love them too. These plants are bullet-proof; in fact in the right conditions they may become a little invasive. But all the more to pick for the vase, right?

Grape-like clusters of bright blue or (less common) yellow or white flowers give this plant its common name. The flowers appear in early spring and naturalise readily, producing fine blue carpets beneath trees and shrubs. They grow in sun or part shade, but in hot areas they need protection from the midday sun.

Flowers start to decline when bulbs become overcrowded, so if that’s the case, dig up clumps, divide them and replant them around your garden. The bulbs themselves are planted in autumn, in rich, free-draining soil, 10cm deep and 5cm apart.