A BIT ABOUT FREESIA, OUR MAIN CROP AND BIGGEST SELLER

Freesias growing under wood shavings

We have been growing and selling freesia for nearly 35 years and are in fact the last freesia grower in Guernsey, a sad fact of the industry’s decline. When we started there were over 1,000 freesia growers on the island using about 100 acres of glasshouses.

Freesia originate from South Africa. First discovered in 1790, freesia Armstrongii and freesia Refracta had about 17 sub-varieties and it is the crossbreeding of these varieties that has led to the modern cultivars. The biggest advance in freesia culture came in the 1950s when the original diploid (two sets of chromasones in each cell) was changed to tetraploid (three sets in each cell). This led to the development of stronger, larger and more productive stock.

INITIATING FLOWERING

In their native environment, freesia flower in late winter. The corms need a period of heat (the South African summer) to break their dormancy and start to produce roots. To provide year-round production we now simulate this African summer with treatment in a heat store. With temperatures of around 28c and humidity of 80%, three months of treatment will enable the bulbs to be planted. In their natural season in Guernsey, corms left in the ground will flower in early to mid March. But if we are to change flowering to outside the natural season we also have to keep an eye on the glasshouse temperature – a temperature of above 16c at the growing tip of the corm will result in only leaves forming and no flowers. To do this we spray a proprietary water based shading mix (basically french lime) on to the roof and sides of the greenhouse.  It may be necessary to do this a couple of times during a crop depending how much is lost to rainfall or hail.

Another technique used to keep the ground cooler is a covering of insulating wood shavings. This can also be used in the winter as an insulation layer as too cold a corm temperature and flowers will initiate early and be short and have low productivity.

TEMPERATURE RESISTANT VARIETIES

In the mid 1990s a new range of freesia, known then as the rapid series, bred by Flamingo of Holland, appeared in blue, white, red, pink and yellow. These freesia had been bred to be more tolerant of higher temperatures and produced flowers more easily. About 7 or 8 years later they were superseded by the Beach series, still temperature tolerant but more productive with stronger stems. Incidentally, the original rapid yellow freesia is probably the most prolific reproducer I have known with many corms now mixed in most of our different stocks.

GROWING YOUR OWN FREESIA

In the UK outdoor freesia should be planted after the last frost but make sure you obtain heat-treated corms. They can be left in the ground provided they have a good overwinter mulch to prevent them freezing. If your soil is likely to freeze, dig them up in the late summer after the leaves have died back, separate the corm (larger bulb) from the cormlets (the naturally produced small corms clustered around the main corm) and store them somewhere warm and preferably humid until the following Spring when you can repeat the process.

To view our much-loved freesia bouquets click here.

Our heat treatment store.