Part of the buttercup family, and sometimes referred to as the Persian buttercup, these paper thin herbaceous perennials originate from central Asia. There are over 600 varieties - with the name ranunculus deriving from the Latin for ‘little frog’, which we think is likely to refer to a lot of the species’ natural environments being near water, in wild, marshy areas. Interestingly, they were commonly used by Native Americans to treat boils and warts and can be soothing for those dealing with eczema.
Last week we pulled out over 700 ranunculus corms collectively. It’s a satisfying and cathartic process but a sad one too. We found most corms had doubled, some even tripled in size and looked so fat and healthy it felt a shame dusting off the soil and cutting the drying foliage back. As perennials, they can be left in the ground & overwintered, however lots of people choose to pull them out at the end of their season to make room for other crops, especially if planted in a polytunnel or similar - as they hate the heat.
Lulu and Jess’s corms were all planted in a day, which in hindsight wasn’t the best approach as they all came at once and we struggled to harvest them quick enough.
Next year we’ll be planting them in succession like Liv, both inside and outside to make the most of the season, as they’re such beauties and such a brilliant cut flower. Liv noticed that those planted earliest, in November, resulted in much longer stem length - they clearly benefit from spending the winter outside.
Their vase life is unbelievable. They are one of our favourite flowers to watch unfurl in the vase.
Petals becoming more translucent day by day, some varieties initially thought too garish to begin with slowly turned into perfect pastels. As a florist it’s amazing to have such a big, long lasting bloom available to use so early in the season, as ranunculus can start at the beginning of April and last well into June.
Whilst tulips are admittedly the spring time showstoppers, their season won’t be pushed much later than the end of April. We used an organic fertilizer made from Shropshire seaweed called Sea Chem fortnightly, which definitely played a role in the abundance of flowers each plant produced. They don’t like too much water either - once planted, we didn’t water them at all until the first foliage appeared. There’s so much advice on the best techniques, it’s easy to get overwhelmed - we definitely feel ranunculus are fairly straightforward and really rewarding to grow.
Once they’ve been pulled out and tidied up, they need to dry out for a couple of days before being stored in crates somewhere dark, cool and away from rodents. We’ll be laying ours in straw but that’s not essential, as long as they have plenty of breathing space and there’s no damp. Next year we’ll start planting in late Autumn, as they love the cold so there’s no need to worry too much about frost damage.
We have already ordered a couple of new varieties for next year - it’s worth getting in there early, the best colours get snapped up fast! Some of the most popular are Picotee and French Peony ranunculus, but it’s the Italian ranunculus such as Cloni and Butterfly that have made a name for being the very best. These are patented and a little harder to come by, we’re yet to find a British corm supplier of them.
You can buy a selection of Italian corms of the Elegance variety from Farmer Gracy - they stock a really special selection of Dutch bulbs and corms.
We had a play with the last of the flowers, before pulling off the petals to make confetti and composting the stems to finish our Spring season.
Written by Jess Geissendorfer