Recently somebody asked for advice on some autumn bulbs and the plants in question (Ranunculus) reminded me that some species of bulbs appear in autumn collections and then again in the spring. These bulbs are often not the hardiest of plants, so here are a few tips:
Let’s start with the aforementioned Persian buttercup. Grown for its large, showy flowers, popular with florists, if you plant this in spring it’s easy-going, summer-growing.
Plant it in autumn, however, and you’ll need a very well-drained, sheltered spot. They will survive a light frost, but heavy frost will damage or kill them, so cosy and sunny is best and the flowers get ruined by heavy rain so emphasis on the sheltered.
Harlequin flowers and corn lilies (Sparaxis and Ixia) are beautiful little gems in the iris family. They like a warm location for autumn planting, preferably south-facing and, again, will suffer at the hands of waterlogging and heavy frost. They make great pot plants for a cold or cool greenhouse where you can admire their short-lived, technicolour blooms close-up.
Freesias can be planted directly outside for the summer, but for overwinter growing they are best in a cool greenhouse.
Their pet hate is overwatering: go steady at first and increase as growth increases, but never allow to sit in water.
You’ll often see the poppy anemone (A. coronaria) for sale in both seasons, usually the ‘De Caen’ and ‘St Brigid’ strains. They are much more forgiving with their growing conditions than the others above and will provide a fantastic display during mid-late spring from an autumn planting and, much like their cousins, the Persian buttercup, make excellent cut flowers.