Greenhouse Bulbs – Anenomes and Freesias
Although mainly grown as an outdoor crop, anemones lend themselves to protected cropping in cool , frames or polythene structures. Single anemones of the De Caen type are usually in demand, and many excellent colour selections have been made available, eg Hollandia (scarlet, very large ), His Excellency (scarlet), Sylphide (magenta), Mr Fokker (blue violet), The Bride (white). Bulbs of the double St. Brigid type are available but produce fewer flowers than the singles, especially in winter, and the best varieties are: The Governor (scarlet), Lord Lieutenant (blue), The Admiral (magenta). French doubles are also available, although they are rarely grown for the production of cut flowers.
Anemone corms (tuberous rhizomes) are bought either as pointed pittens or the flatter buttons and are available in various sizes from 1-2cm up to 5-6cm. The 2-3cm size is usually grown commercially, flowering on average 12-13 weeks after planting. Larger sized corms may flower earlier but tend to fade out soon, and conversely smaller corms take longer to flower.
Anemones may also be propagated from seed; new hybrid seed is now available.
Anemone corms must have frost protection. They will thrive in most well cultivated soils with a fairly high lime content. (pH 6.5-7). The phosphate and potash index should be 2-3, and theconditioned with farmyard manure at 50kg per 7m2 (lcwt per 6-8 sq yd).
Plant 10cm (4in) apart in rows 30-38cm (12-15in) apart, and cover with 5-7.5cm (2-3in) of soil. If corms are planted in mid-summer under glass or plastic, flowering will begin towards the beginning of mid-autumn, be at its peak in early winter and may well continue into early spring according to region. Planting mid to late summer will give later flowering.
The soil should ideally be in a moist condition early in the development of growth. Reduce watering very considerably during the winter or it will certainly encourage disease. There is no need for high temperatures which will in fact merely spoil the flowers by ‘blowing’ them.
The freesia belongs to the Iris family and is a native of South Africa. The main species is F. refracta ‘Alba’ (white), and in recent years this, together with F. armstrongii (red), F. aurea and F. leitchlinii, has been used for considerable to produce better coloured and more prolific strains, especially the tetraploid and triploid strains (the usual freesia being a diploid).
The culture of freesias from seed
Sow mid-spring to early summer for flowering early autumn to spring. Freesia seed can be erratic to germinate and a variety of methods are used for `chitting’: soak for 2-4 days in water at 21.1°C (70°F); mixing with damp peat or vermiculite for a similar period at the same temperature, until the seed shows signs of growth; or in the case of slow germinating tetraploid seed, rubbing it between sandpaper before soaking for 24 hours. Darkness is necessary for germination in all cases, the seed being planted 1.25cm (1/2in) deep as soon as germination occurs. Later sowings can be made 0.3-0.6cm deep, directly into containers out of doors, covering with 1.25-2.5cm (½-1in) layer of peat; 23cm (9in) whalehide pots, 2.5 x 2.5m (1 x 1in) spacing, and JIP1 are suitable.
After germination plants will require 12.8-15.6°C (55-60°F) but cool moist growing conditions after the seeds have developed are essential to keep growth sturdy. Containers should be placed on a sheet of polythene or hard slabbing and may be stacked fairly closely together as convenient. Some shelter from wind should be provided. Regular watering should be the rule, plus balanced liquid feeding every 10-14 days to keep growth vigorous, without producing excess soft foliage which flops about. Excessive watering should be avoided, not only to offset fungal disorders, but to avoid leaching out nutrients.
The crop should be brought into the greenhouse in early autumn. The night temperature should not exceed 12.8°C (55°F) in early/mid-autumn and early/ mid-spring; drop to 10°C (50°F) from late autumn to late winter. Excessive temperatures will result in unproductive growth. Support will be necessary either by netting or twigs.
Production from corms
Basically similar to production from seed, but spacing up to 7.5 X 7.5cm (3 x 3in) and planting to 5cm (2in) depth in JIP1. Normally corms are planted in spring to flower in the autumn.
After flowering, growth should be encouraged for two months to allow development of the corms, which should then be lifted, dried and stored for two weeks at a temperature of 21.1°C (70°F), though flowering is improved if they can be stored at 30°C (86°F) for ten weeks in an electrically controlled heat treatment chamber. The corms from seed-raised plants can of course also be stored.