Spring Bulbs for Warm Places

starling flower farm spring

While the Italian Ranunculus takes centre stage on the flower farm in Spring, there are many smaller Spring bulbs that we wouldn't be without. Here are some of our favourites:

Ornithogalum 

I first learnt of this late spring flowering, South African plant when I moved to Australia.  It has so much to recommend as a cut flower: long, straight stems and a mass of pretty, white flowers with contrasting black or yellow centres. Ours are easily 50cm tall and get longer and stronger each season, forming large clumps that can be divided every few years. Ornithogalums last at least 10 days in a vase and make an exceptional dried flower. You can even pinch out the green, central growing tip for an all-white effect.

Plant just 4-6cm deep, pointy end facing upright and space 6cm apart. 

Cottage Gladioli (Gladiolus nanus)

Dame Edna did gladdies a great disservice, ignoring the daintier, spring flowering cottage garden version in tasteful pastel hues of coral, salmon and dusty pink. Each easy to grow corm will send up two or three spikes with as many as seven flowers per spike and their small size makes them useful for tucking into bunches. Not everyone loves the distinctive gladdie form, but I think this is changing as our recent summer gladioli trails have been received with great enthusiasm online. Spring flowering ‘Blushing Bride’ and ‘Salmoneus’ start flowering for us after the Tulips have finished.

Plant from March to May. 5-7cm deep in clumps 10-15cm apart.

Giant Freesia

A South African native, Freesias have been grown for cut flowers since the 1800s. They are loved for their fresh, sweet fragrance, and simple beauty. Each stem bears six to 10 funnel-shaped flowers opening sequentially from the base. Giant Freesias, with stems reaching 40cm, are better as a cut flower.  Plant the corms in autumn and keep the water up when the Freesias flower if your spring weather is dry; at other times they require very little extra water. 

Plant 5-6cm deep and 8-10 cm apart.

Watsonia

Watsonia Lilac Towers is a beautifully behaved, non invasive rich pink Watsonia which reaches 2m tall. We use it extensively in our spring and early summer bunches. It makes a great cut flower and has good vase life.

It's also an exceptional border plant and a lovely feature when clump planted.

While we have not had any concerns with this non-invasive variety of watsonia on the flower farm, watsonia is weed in the Adelaide Hills. Avoid it if you live in this area.

Plant 10cm deep and 20cm apart.

Watsonia Starling Flowers

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