Minor bulbs get their name from the size of the bulb rather than their importance to the winter and spring flower display. In fact many of the minor bulbs produce more flowers of larger size over a far longer period than the major bulbs. They are very easy to grow and cost far less than the major bulbs to buy. Obviously, no garden should be without them!
Freesia would be perhaps one of the best known of this group of bulbs. These South African natives prefer well-drained soils, even sands and gravels. They do resent heavy wet soils and are a bit fussy about heavy frost. Full sun to light dry shade suits them perfectly. They are suitable to borders, beds, pots and are effective planted within hedges or low shrubbery. Given the right conditions they multiply rapidly making a brilliant show of fragrant trumpet flowers in every colour from late winter to mid spring.
Now if your garden situation suits the growing of freesia definitely include her South African neighbours: tritonia, sparaxis, babiana and ixia. All of these tiny bulbs require the same conditions for growth as freesia but are even easier, multiply faster and are more resistant to frost and cold. All produce many star-like sometimes trumpeted flowers in every colour shade from late winter till late spring.
Grape hyacinth and lachenalias are two tiny bulbs with small spikes of delicate blooms. The Australian lachenalias produce bright hot sunny shades while grape hyacinths are blue, white and pink and really do look and smell like a miniature bunch of grapes on a stick. Both are very hardy and multiply rapidly, even in pots, and grape hyacinth also grows in light shade.
Anemone and ranunculus are the most spectacular of the minor bulbs. By planting a few bulbs each week a succession of flowers can last from autumn till near summer. There are single and double forms with anemone favouring rich red, white, blue and pastels while ranunculus are more fluffy, satin finished bright sunny shades. Both are brilliantly showy: big blooms on plants that can be knee high!
They are great in pots, beds or borders. Both prefer very good drainage but should never be allowed to dry out and like an open sunny airy spot. They love lime, blood and bone and a general plant food and feeding-on with a liquid food like phostrogen. Both are highly valued as cut flowers and are dirt cheap to buy.
Bulbs are one of natures little wonders. There is little else in nature that will produce so much for so little for so long as spring bulbs. Guaranteed, once you become acquainted with them you will be friends for life!
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