The old fashioned Freesia species and hybrids add wonderfully to the garden with their ease of care and very fragrant blossoms. In addition to this, they increase rapidly and are almost maintenance free. They can be grown in containers or in the ground. A sunny spot is appreciated and good drainage, summer drying off is not necessary, but will help to rest the bulbs. Gophers relish these, so wire basket protection is in order. These favorites are of the easiest care and are much more fragrant than their modern hybrids. Additionally, they have branched stems. Color range is narrower with white and creamy yellow, the outside of the tubular shaped blooms are often flushed purple. These low growing bulbs are never easy to locate. You really do have to search for them. Sometimes rare seed growers, or bulb specialists may have them, but more often, you just chance upon them in an old garden where they have naturalized to become almost a ground cover when in full growth and bloom. They flower in late winter into spring, then dry up and go dormant. If you plant them in layers of different bulb species, your efforts of digging one deep hole will provide a very long season of blooms.
This idea is to dig a hole for the largest bulbs, then cover them with soil shallowly, then add medium sized bulbs on top of those, then add a shallow layer of soil again, next add smaller bulbs and cover them with soil. What you have achieved is a very long season of blooming from just one planting effort. The earliest and often smallest bulbs bloom first, then finish. Then the next layer of bulbs blooms, and so on. If you want immediate color, just plant cool season annuals on top and you have instant color from the get go.
There has been much hybridizing with the hellebores. Now you can get a broader color range, prolonged blooming, and various foliage textures and colors. The color range is chartreuse, yellow, white, pink, purple, and reddish purple to almost black purple. Now you can choose flowers also with blotching or spotting on the petals, so you get much showier blooms. In addition, there are also doubles in almost all the mentioned color range as well. Foliage has not been neglected either. Lacey leaves, stiff almost holly-like leaves, blue gray, steel gray leaves now accompany the various shades of greens. There are also height variations, with small short plants, to larger types to perhaps 3 ft tall. These all like shade, some will tolerate dry shade, even under redwoods. You may have to supplement with additional fertilize and watering until the plants mature if root competition is strong from nearby larger plants. They like a humusy rich well drained soil and are very easy care, perhaps once a year is all the maintenance you will need to do, and that is just removing the old dead stems.
There are a number of newer Camellia species and hybrids available if you look. Several species offer interest. C. cuspidata, forrestii, lutchuensis, nokoensis, salicifolia, transnokoensis, transarisanensis, tsaii are but a few with very fine textured lacy growth. Blooms tend to be whites with a boss of yellow stamens and growth is very lacy and sometimes pendulous. Flowers tend to be small, but very profuse and often marked/tipped in contrasting colors. Additionally, many have fragrance!
C. synaptica, yunnanensis, grisjii are more medium in texture. C. synaptica is wonderfully fragrant, C. yunnanensis has large pendulous seedpods which are showy.
Hybrids of several species are now becoming available and these show much promise. larger color range, profuse blooming, longer bloom season, fragrance, and more plant habits from weeping, dwarf and contorted are to be had..
Regular watering, rich moist acid soil and well drained location in partial shade is best for these.
Some specialties in the camellia group are the black flowered types such as C. japonica ‘Kuro Tsubaki’, Black Opal, Black Prince, Black Magic, and the hybrid ‘Night Rider’.
There are variegated foliage forms such as:
Golden Spangles, Fukurin Ikkyu, Debutante Variegated, Kin Sekai, Reigyoku, Taiyo.
Unusual foliage forms include: Hakuhan Kujaku(Kujaku Tsubaki) the weeping peacock camellia, Yuri Tsubaki(lily camellia), Nokogiri-Ba (sawtooth leaf), Kingyo-ba shiro wabisuke(white mermaid, white goldfish tail), Kingyo Tsubaki(goldfish tail camellia), Sakazuki-ba (sake’ cup leaf), and many more very rare sorts.
Here you will also find the contorted forms ‘Unryu’ (cloud dragon), and Egao Corkscrew
Fragrance is found in these, High Fragrance (pink peony form), Minato no Akebono, fine textured pendulous growth, small single pink in profusion, Koto no Kaori single light pink profuse and lacey growth, Cinnamon Cindy with light double white/blush small blooms in profusion and fine textured bushy growth, Nioi Fubuki (scented snowstorm) a higo type often with petaloids and sometimes a red stripe or two.
The Higo type flowers which resemble the Prunus mume blossom, single with a ring of stamens. The cv. Ohkan is most spectacular with a white ground bordered in bright red.