Monday, October 1, 2012

Colchicum Companions

An established stand of Colchicum 'Waterlily' emerging
Day 225
The Daily DuBrule

It's Colchicum time. This bulb is often referred to as a form of autumn crocus, however the species name is Colchicum and it is a LOT larger than any crocus flower I have ever seen. The Colchicum bulbs that I grow come are lilac pink and are either single or double. The double form is named 'Waterlily' and it is easy to see why.

Colchicum with donkeytail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites)

Colchicums have a backwards life cycle compared to most of the bulbs that we grow in Connecticut. The bulbs arrive in late August and are already sprouting flowers. Left in their bin boxes, they will bloom in the retail store. The goal is to get them planted as soon as possible. The flowers appear in the garden anywhere from early September through October. The emerge out of the ground flowers only, no leaves. An established clump of Colchicums will produce dozens of flowers over the course of many weeks. 
Colchicum and black mondo grass-love it!
In the spring, the leaves appear. They are strappy, gangly leaves that look a bit like Amaryllis foliage. No matter how much you know about gardening, they always are a surprise simply because they look so out of place where they are growing. The reason for this is that you locate Colchicum bulbs where they can be enjoyed in the front of the garden and the leaves are way too big to be anywhere near the front. You just deal with it. You have to allow the leaves to grow until they die back naturally, usually about 3-4 weeks. That is how they feed the bulb for the fall flowering to come.

A fun trick is to plant them so they come up through something- ground cover junipers, black mondo grass, Euphorbia myrsinites, any low growing plant that can form the unerpinnings for this magnificent bulb. That way people can do a double take and say things like "I didn't know junipers bloomed in the fall..." and you can just slyly smile. I would love to know what you have combined them with that works especially well.
I got a little nervous this fall as the Colchicums seemed slow to emerge. In the spring we had "the attack of the chipmunks" who dug up every single garden at Natureworks and ate tons of bulbs. Even though I have observed and read and been told that rodents don't eat Colchicums, I was afraid we had lost them. That is why I celebrate with great glee every clump that arises.

1 comment:

  1. The clump coming through the mondo grass looked AMAZING this morning!!!