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Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Colchicum autumnale is My Favorite Plant ... This Week

When we first looked at our house 17 years ago, there was a large number of these lovely, late summer crocus-like blooms popping up in what was then a grassy slope.They have multiplied nicely and have been moved all over the garden.



The leafless appearance in late August of these delicate, spring like blooms is a delightful sight!  It's also a bit bittersweet as it signals, along with the proliferation of spider webs and heavy dew on cars in the morning, that change is at hand.  Time for me to go back to work and that A.L. (after lily) time in the garden.  Seems like after the last of the fragrant oriental lilies fade, the inexorable slide into fall happens awfully quickly.    


Their one drawback is that they put up huge, some say hosta-like, foliage in the spring which is lovely but must be left in place as it yellows and flops over smothering plants nearby.  It can be scooted about a bit to allow some light in to companions.

That can be forgiven when they pop up in such profusion.  

 Because Brent and Becky's Bulbs has them on sale, some different varieties  will be joining the inherited  ones, including a couple of the double "waterlily" types.  We'll see.  There's something about the simplicity of these that tugs at my heart.

This is an appropriate choice for the favorite plant meme hosted by Loree at Danger Garden as its leaves, corm, and seeds are poisonous.  Murderess Catherine Wilson is thought to have used it to poison a number of victims in the 19th century. That's a dangerous plant! On the other hand, the plant contains the alkaloid colchicine which is used pharmaceutically to treat gout and Familial Mediterranean fever.
Light: Full sun to partial shade in hotter climates. 
Moisture: Autumn crocus likes a well drained soil that doesn't completely dry out. It doesn't need any moisture in its dormant season (summer), but it likes some water during the flowering period. This species tolerates wetter soils better than any other Colchicum
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. C. autumnale is the most cold hardy of the autumn crocuses, and easily survives winter temperatures a little below 0ºF (-17ºC).
Propagation: Established clumps may be divided while they are dormant every 3 years or so. Plant corms 4-6 in (10-15 cm) apart and so that the tops are 2-4 in (5-10 cm) below the ground surface; deeper in sandy soils and more shallow in compact soils. They should be planted in summer. Corms that don't get planted in time will bloom anyway!
Colchicum autumnal is the most well known and widely cultivated of the autumn crocuses. It comes originally from Europe where it grows wild from southern England, Spain and Portugal to Russia.

Oh, they go nicely with bowling balls as well. 

Happy weekend all!

45 comments:

  1. I think about planting autumn-blooming bulbs/corms every year when I see them blooming, but then I wonder where I'd put them, if I really want more yellowing bulb foliage, if deer won't just chomp them immediately, etc. so I do nothing. This should be the year I do something...

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    1. They are pretty but doing nothing is also very appealing. What to do, what to do?

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  2. I saw Colchicums blooming for the first time the other day. I've often considered adding them. I love Brent and Becky's catalog, I buy from them a lot. I really need to get an order together. I love that yours have multiplied so well.

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    1. They are a sweet end of summer surprise! Brent and Becky's also has those cool variegated tulips that we bought at Hortlandia!

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  3. Those are beautiful. Maybe I need some, too. I think my fall bloomers are late this year. Sternbergias may be buried under mulch -- I need to go look.

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  4. This is one of those plants I think of as "signature Peter"...love that you have so many of them!

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  5. Sooo pretty, I keep thinking I'll plant some of these one of these days but have never gotten around to it.

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    1. Oh well...someday. In the meantime, you can enjoy them in other gardens.

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  6. They are such a bittersweet thing to see, pretty but also means autumn is just around the corner.

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    1. Yes indeed. They are also the floral emblem (for me) of my furry soulmate who died as these were beginning to bloom many years ago. I still miss that little guy and think of him fondly each time I see them blooming.

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  7. I can see why you would enjoy the lovely autumn crocus…I didn't know there was one that would bloom this time of the year. They look so delicate for the temperatures early in the fall season.

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    1. There are also the true autumn crocus with much smaller corms and without the huge foliage that are lovely as well.

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  8. They are very nice :) a joy to see flowers in the garden at late summer.

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    1. It is nice to see something fresh at this time of year

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  9. Beautiful! I'll have to check to see if our one little clump has sprung up.

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  10. I love fall bloomers and these are wonderful (even with their sinister history).

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  11. Lovely post to end the week with.
    Someone set culchium bulbs out on the street under a FREE sign and I helped myself to a couple of handfuls. I wasn't sure what I was getting but I'm pleased to see them bloom every year. Awesome combo with the black mondo grass. I'll be borrowing that idea. My Crocus sativas should be blooming next.

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    1. I almost bought some Crocus sativas today thinking that they would be a nice addition. What a cool story about finding them under a free sign!

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  12. Such a lovely plant! If only they were not so expensive, so one could plant big drifts of them. You are really lucky that yours have been around for so long and multiply so well.

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    1. I used to drive by an old garden that had a long bed that was full of them for about thirty feet and I always looked forward to seeing them. I'm lucky to have inherited them as you're right, they are expensive.

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  13. They are lovely, and they do go nicely with bowling balls. I wonder how they work with gnomes?

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    1. Perhaps they're springing up in the enchanted gnome forest at Bella Madrona even as we speak.

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  14. Beautitul. Mine bloom in October. Happy weekend, Peter!

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    1. October would be a great time for these to bloom when so little else is blooming!

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  15. Beautiful photos Peter! I guess you've taken them in evening, haven't you?
    My colchicum didn't sprout yet, wait them in the end of month.
    Happy weekend!

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    1. Yes, I took the pictures in the evening. I was out looking at another garden after work and by the time I got home it was getting dark. How wonderful that they bloom later for you! Happy weekend to you, Nadezda!

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  16. In your pictures, they remind me ghosts, little mystic ghosts.

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    1. I like that thought! They do look ghostly emerging as they do with no foliage.

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  17. Mine have just started flowering too, I must move some of mine into the woodland to keep the tiny cyclamen company. I love the way they multiply so quickly.

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    1. They would look lovely with your cyclamen!

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  18. I've never grown these plants. I don't know why. I've got two bowling balls. :) Great post.

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    1. Well, if you have bowling balls, you simply must get some colchicum! They're pretty close to pink.

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  19. Dear Peter, interesting plant, I've never tried to grow it, but it is delicate and lovely (when in bloom), and I must admit I have a morbid fascination for poisonous plants. I suppose Catherine Wilson got her just desserts?

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    1. It's an easy plant which doesn't require a lot of water. Catherine Wilson was hanged for poisoning several of her patients (she was a nurse) after they had rewritten their wills in her favor. Fun gal!

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  20. I just bought my first of these at heronswood yesterday, thanks to your post, white and giant purple. Exciting experiment!

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    1. Rats! I forgot all about the Heronswood sale yesterday. Just as well as we had fun visiting gardens. I'm glad you're trying them and hope you like them as much as I.

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  21. Lovely, and a bulb I am entirely without. Do the critters ravage it the way they do the spring crocus, biting off the flower buds and eating the leaves?

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    1. I've never had a critter bother it at all, maybe because of the whole poisonous thing. When the leaves yellow and flop over on the ground, slugs will sometimes take a bite or two. I don't have rabbits but the squirrels that usually eat my spring crocus and replant the bulbs all over the yard for me leave this alone.

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  22. Like Grace, I've never grown them and I really don't know why either..I really admire them. And I know I've said this before, but I sure do like your garden art!

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    1. They're very sweet! Glad that you like the garden art. There's a bit too much of it kicking around but it's great for filling in spots where plants suddenly die.

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  23. Pretty! Even better in amongst that black mondo grass :)

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Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.