If you can, take advantage of the mild early season temperatures and start planting some bulbs.
I love the autumn-blooming perennials called Colchicum and have enjoyed them in my gardens for many years. Colchicum produces such cheerful colors when most other plants have faded and are going dormant. Recently, we planted a number of colchicum bulb-like corms in an area behind my Tenant House. They came from one of my favorite sources, Brent and Becky's, located in Gloucester, Virginia. Some of the varieties we planted include 'Lilac Wonder', 'Waterlily', 'Dick Trotter', Colchicum byzantinum, and Colchicum bornmuelleri. I also have some planted near my Winter House and along the carriage road near my main greenhouse. I am so happy these plants are flourishing and have multiplied in numbers. They add a perfect touch of springlike color.
Enjoy these photos.
The common name for Colchicum is autumn crocus, but they are not true autumn crocus because there are many species of true crocus which are autumn blooming. Also, Colchicums have six stamens while crocuses have only three.
It is a member of the botanical family Colchicaceae, and is native to West Asia, Europe, parts of the Mediterranean coast, down the East African coast to South Africa and the Western Cape.
The scientific name comes from Colchis, a region on the coast of the Black Sea. The name Colchicum alludes to the poisonous qualities of the species. The plant contains an alkaloid known as colchicine, which is found in all parts, but mostly in the seeds.
Because Colchicums are toxic, they provide a natural way to repel animals such as deer, mice, squirrels, and moles.
When blooming, Colchicums have up to six bright single or double petaled blossoms.
Here are some just beginning to open.
I love how they dot this garden with pops of color. This area is on one side of a carriage road near my main greenhouse. Guests always stop to look at them.
We’re planting many more Colchicum bulb-like corms in the Stewartia garden across from my clematis pergola. These came from one of my favorite bulb sources, Brent and Becky’s. https://www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com
Plant Colchicum in late summer or very early fall in well-draining, compost-amended soil. This bed is filled with our nutrient-rich “black gold”.
When selecting Colchicum corms, look for ones that are firm, dense, and heavy. The corms are pretty large, with waxy, dark-brown, leathery skin.
Ryan starts by placing the corms where he will plant them.
Doing this ensures the corms are evenly spaced.
I also like them to look natural, so Ryan tosses some of the bulbs and plants them where they land. They’re best grown in a sheltered spot that enjoys afternoon sun because this encourages a good succession of wide-open flowers.
Ryan uses a garden trowel, but a bulb planter will also work just fine.
The holes should be about four to six inches deep.
Colchicum should also be planted six to nine inches apart.
Ryan then spreads a small handful of a bulb fertilizer in the planting hole.
Colchicums are so eager to grow, they will likely pop up very soon. Each corm produces five or six flowers, which can last for weeks.
Each bulb was placed into the hole – always nose up and roots down. If not sure which is which, place the bulb on its side. Eventually, no matter how a bulb is positioned in the ground, it will find its way up, so don’t worry.
Once all the bulbs were planted, Ryan back filled the holes and slightly compressed the soil.
Blackie often rests nearby and watches all the activity.
The area will get a good drink to settle the soil around them.
Here are more Colchicums blooming in the area outside the main greenhouse a few days later – they multiplied. Most Colchicums produce their flowers without any foliage – this is why these flowers also go by the common name naked ladies or naked boys.
These plants thrive in flower beds, borders, and rock gardens, as well as on windowsills.
Beginning in mid-September, Colchicums produce large, goblet-like blooms in shades of pink, violet or white.
These plants are hardy in zones 4 through 9 and when planted well before the first frost, can establish a good root system before winter.
Colchicums are so delicate and pretty, and they’re spreading very nicely in the autumn garden. Look how many have come up in this border.
If we’re lucky, these blooms will last into November. Enjoy your fall gardens!