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Freesia's Fragrance Isn't All in the Past


QUESTION: Do you know a source from which I might order the older, nonhybridized fragrant white freesia?

--S.F., Santa Monica

ANSWER: A lot of people remember freesias smelling stronger than they do today, but I suspect it's much the same as remembering our first date as being prettier or more handsome than the date actually was.

Most experts think that all freesias are powerfully fragrant, though they agree that the single-flowered kinds are more fragrant than the doubles and that the white-flowered kinds may be the most fragrant.

At better nurseries right now are bulbs (actually corms) of several single whites, including 'Matterhorn' and 'Tecolote White.' They are so fragrant that "carrying a bouquet home in your car can be overpowering," says bulb grower Dan Davids of Davids & Royston Bulb Co., one big wholesaler.

The old freesia you're thinking of is a species, or wild freesia, named Freesia alba. It's white with a yellow throat. Seed-grown corms are available from Neglected Bulbs, P.O. Box 2768, Berkeley, CA 94702-0768; (510) 524-5149.

Owner Hugh McDonald says, "You never have to bend down to smell Freesia alba."

Another source is Jim Duggan Flower Nursery, 1452 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024, (760) 943-1658, which sells corms by mail order June through September. Their catalog costs $2 or find it (with color photos) on the Web at In spring his retail nursery, Encinitas Gardens, sells the bulbs blooming in pots.

Right now through November, however, is the time to plant freesia corms. Bury them so they are covered by 2 1/2 to 3 inches of soil and space them 3 to 4 inches apart in full sun, though one observer thinks that F. alba can tolerate a little shade.

You Can Flush Excess Salt Out of the Soil

Q: As a bonsai enthusiast, I have several flowering cherry trees, Prunus serrulata, planted in a large dish. A couple of trees have a rust-colored ring around the edge of their leaves. They are watered every day and fed on a regular basis. Is there something that I might add to the supplement that will alleviate this problem?

--C.H., Fullerton

A: More likely you need to subtract something. The leaves you sent along were a bit shriveled by the time they arrived, but even in this condition, the tan or brown edges were obvious and indicate too much boron or salts.

These minerals accumulate at the leaf edges and turn them that rusty brown color near the end of summer. Excess nitrogen from fertilizers can also burn the leaf tips.

You may be fertilizing too often or these minerals may simply be in your irrigation water. A good rainy winter will help flush them out of the soil, but you can help by watering containers every now and then with pure distilled water to flush out the salts without adding any more. Make sure plenty of water comes out the drainage hole, carrying the salts with it.

A number of deciduous plants that really aren't suited to growing here get this salt damage at the end of summer, including your cherries, some magnolias, Japanese maples and birches. If the salts are flushed out, the new spring leaves will be fine; next summer be sure to fertilize less and flush soil with pure water every so often. To remove salts around trees that are growing in the ground, thoroughly irrigate once in summer, applying about six inches of water over a few days, to push the salts out.

What to Do With Unwanted Seedlings

Q: I have a carrotwood tree about 20 years old that blooms profusely and sheds lots of seeds. They sprout in the garden beds, and keeping them pulled out is very time-consuming. What can I do?

--J.C., West Covina

A: At a nursery, look for a product called Florel Fruit Eliminator by Monterey Lawn & Garden Products or have a gardener spray it on the tree if it is too large to do yourself. This chemical, which contains ethephon, prevents the formation of fruit on many plants if it is sprayed onto the flowers when the plant is in mid-to-full-bloom.

According to the manufacturer, it works on many plants, including flowering pear, olive, liquidambar and sycamore--trees that bloom all at once. Timing is critical because any flowers that aren't sprayed will make fruit. Follow all directions carefully, using three ounces per gallon of water, and wash the spray off car paint or any glossy painted surface.

Another reader wrote in from Garden Grove asking if she can prevent the "purplish-red, berry-sized" fruit on eugenias. If the eugenias bloom all at once, Florel will also work on them, but if they bloom off and on, as they often do, it will affect only those flowers that happen to be blooming.

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