Freesia History

No flower has become more popular in recent years than the fragrant freesia, for from a long uphill fight for recognition it has now blossomed forth in all its hidden charm which has met with a ready response. It appears that the bulbs were first brought to Britain from the Cape of Good Hope about the year 1850 as the species Freesia Refracta, which has sweetly perfumed flowers, white with a deep orange throat.

Then as now, this was a delightful subject for cutting but little enthusiasm amongst growers could be worked up and so the public remained in almost total ignorance of its charm. But at the turn of the century, a certain gentleman named Armstrong brought back to Kew a deep pink freesia from his travels in South Africa and interest was immediately stimulated. freesia

Freesia Armstrongii was crossed with refracta first by F. H. Chapman, then in turn by the Rev. Jacob and G. H. Dalrymple and soon we had a wide range of colours and named hybrids, but even then the flower was not accepted by the ‘authorities’.

Small consignments of cut refiacta alba, the pure white fteesia, arrived from the Channel Islands throughout winter and spring but home growers were not interested. As late as 1950 Dr. Bewley’s huge volume, Commercial Glasshouse Crops (Country Life) makes no mention of the freesia, yet Dutch-born Mr. J. C. Eauwens, a nurseryman of Offenham in Worcestershire, had taken up the crop in the mid- 1930s and twenty years later was sending almost a million blooms annually to the markets of Britain, producing an all-year-round supply.

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