Friday, October 19, 2012

an embarrassment of freesias

Early last week, I thought I spotted a weed in our bulb bed, but closer inspection revealed it to be the first freesia of fring, a spring-like season triggered by Southern California's fall rains. The rainy season started very early in October of 2010 and 2011, but this year we're well into the second half of the month, with nothing but a couple of brief sprinkles.

Now that our front garden beds are virtually free of weeds, a single freesia sprout looks very lonely as it emerges from thick brown mulch at the foot of a lavender tree. The appearance of three more sprouts hasn't helped much, and, having reached a height of about six inches, they look even weedier. I hope someone doesn't decide to 'help' me by pulling them out!

The freesias will not bloom until March, and up to that time their grassy-looking foliage will continue to look out of place. As soon as they reach a height of about nine inches, they will start to flop over and lie along the ground. Blossom stalks will rise rather dejectedly from this mass of green, but when at last they begin to open and release their spectacular fragrance, all this early ugliness will be forgiven.

This year, I hope to mask the ugly-duckling phase of freesia development by planting buckwheat, which stands about a foot tall and bears clusters of tiny white flowers. It draws phosphorus from the earth and nitrogen from the air. Thus it is an ideal green manure crop and should be adaptable as a bulb cover for my freesias and hyacinths..

I had never thought of planting buckwheat until last spring's garden tour featured a nearby garden surrounded by a circle of blooming buckwheat. The plantings at this site (a lush mix of flowers, herbs, and veggies) were designed to draw bees and butterflies. Will 'my' bees welcome a change from their steady diet of lavender? Time will tell.

Unable to find buckwheat seeds in our local nurseries, I ordered a packet of 200 on line. Last week I probably jumped the gun by sowing about half of them. The rest will wait until "fall rains heal all.*"
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* Last line of a poem I wrote several years ago about Santa Ana winds.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License