More than a decade ago, in early October, I began planting many of the bulbs that have since naturalized in our Southern California garden, including freesia, bearded Iris, amaryllis belladona. All of them are tolerant of our long dry summers. Each year I add a few more bulbs. Planting varieties of flower bulbs that are known to naturalize in our Mediterranean climate saved us money on the garden over the long run. They slowly multiplied in number and continue to come back year after year, unlike more popular bulbs like Tulips that need chill and moisture. I also used to grow lots of Oriental and Asiatic Lilies, but they eventually wore out and died. However, I am totally to blame for their demise because I couldn’t resist cutting the stems and bringing them in the house to enjoy the fragrance.
Do you have any favorites that naturalized in your own garden?
My Favorite Bulbs for Mediterranean Gardens:
- Bearded Iris
- Calla Lilies
- St. Brigid Anemones
- Narcissus tazetta
- Amaryllis Belladona
I highly recommend trying freesia in a dry yard like mine. It actually prefers our native conditions of dry summers followed by cool wet winters. Frequent watering in the summer would probably cause them to rot. Their fragrance is strong, sweet, and kind of fruity, sort of like Calvin Klein Obsession perfume that was so popular back in the mid 1990’s. I love that it only takes one or two stems to fragrance a small room. And one benefit of Freesias is it is possible to cut the flower stems without the foliage so it doesn’t impair the bulb’s ability to store energy for the next year. But a word of caution: When growing freesias for cut organic flowers, watch out earwigs before bringing them inside. I learned that lesson the hard way. Much to my dismay, there were a few earwigs that crawled out across the dinner table one evening. Now I always make sure to give them a quick tap or shake before bringing the flowers indoors.
When planting most bulbs or corms, make sure the pointy end is up and plant them twice as deep and the bulb is long. If the bulbs are irregular like anemones, look for a scar where the roots were previously attached and put that end down. Anemones are one of the hardest to figure which end to plant. My daughter says the anenome bulbs look like cat poop. So of course I told her to plant them like you would find cat poop in the garden – flat. And if still in doubt which end is the growing tip, put the bulb in sideways; it will figure out which way to grow up.