The pleasant spring days are dwindling and will soon be another echo of a past season. With the cold spring that captivated our area this last year, some of the more tender blooms are hanging in the garden, though technically past their season. I’m specifically referring to the “rose of the spring,” my fickle (yet endearing) friend the ranunculus.
In the high desert we definitely are faced with many gardening challenges, a sudden late frost can wipe out your tomato plants and zinnias. A sudden heat wave can cause premature blooming and fading of your anemones and tulips. Yes, it can be frustrating gardening in the high desert. Ranunculus is a prime example of a difficult flower to conquer growing in our area. When successful, she graces us with such delicate beauty that is reminiscent of frilly petticoat dresses. There is never enough fluff when it comes to these high maintenance divas!
When combing your garden centers in the fall, don’t be fooled by them advertising ranunculus as easy-to-grow fall planted flowers! They are not cold-hardy like tulips or daffodils by any means. They are native to the Mediterranean which has a fairly temperate climate. Alas, our climate is very different from that of the Mediterranean climate. Our weather has crazy mood swings and ranunculus are not big fans of those. They like pleasant seventy-degree weather and nights without freezing temperatures.
At Sierra Flower Farm, we grow everything in the field. We have a tiny greenhouse for pampering seedlings and then we boot them into the elements. That plan would not have ended with a successful crop of ranunculus. We built low tunnels, also known as “caterpillar tunnels" to protect and keep the ranunculus at a cozy temperature. On the especially cold nights, we had flash lights in hand and tucked the plant babies in with a warm blanket, known as frost cloth.
The actual planting of ranunculus is pretty effortless and a lot of them can fit close together. We have very limited growing space and cannot afford to waste it, therefore, much like what we did with the anemones, we pre-sprouted the corms and then let them grow some in the greenhouse. Only the healthiest of them had the honor of getting nestled into our garden space. This method requires some extra effort but rewards us with many more flowers.
Unfortunately, as the valley is getting snowed by the cottonwoods instead of the sky, the time for the ranunculus are coming to their end. The window of them gracing us with their beauty is a fleeting one here in our area, but well worth it. They are beautiful and make long-lasting cut flowers. If you have conquered growing ranunculus, reward yourself with a bouquet of them! As with any flower the key to harvesting them is at the right stage and during the coolest parts of the day. Ranunculus like to be harvested when their buds are colored and they feel squishy as a marshmallow. Cut at the right stage and under the right conditions, they should have a vase life of about a week.
This weekend, we’ll be at the opening day for the 3rd and Curry Farmer’s Market with a handful of these guys (so even if you haven’t grown them you can still enjoy them!). I’m sure you’ll notice our booth since it will have a touch of the Eddy Street style to it (thanks to Meredith!).
Enjoy the remaining days where spring bids us goodbye and summer days greet us with sunburns.
Hope you enjoyed this dose of floral bliss!