by Sandy Swegel
Colchicums! These huge flowers of Fall are still some of my absolute favorite flowers that I look forward to each year. They grow with virtually no attention and have thrived in a shady, pretty dry hosta garden that lacks color so much of the year. It’s been seven years since I planted them and I’ve never lifted them to divide because they look better and better every year! The only problem with colchicums is that you have to plan ahead and order them usually by mail order no later than August. Few garden centers stock them because they are so eager to bloom, they often bloom right in the box.
Colchicum Water Lily is the biggest and showiest and sells out every year from all the bulb catalogs. I first planted it in a shade bed next to a pond with water lilies because it looks just like a giant water-lily rising above the shady ground covers. It’s a fun plant because most garden visitors have never seen it and gasp breathlessly with “What is that flower?!”
A second colchicum I love is “Giant.” It has big single flowers and comes up sooner. Garden blogger Kathy Purdy made the most beautiful display of Giants I’ve ever seen by planting them densely along a low stone fence. In the fall garden with foliage changing and leaves falling, you need big showy flowers to catch attention.
Colchicums come in a range of colors including whites that are luminescent under Fall full moons…but the purple-pinks have my heart.
Finally, my third favorite Fall bloomer, also purple but much more diminutive is Crocus sativus. This is among the smallest of the fall crocuses, but you get real saffron from it. Not a lot, but ten bulbs I planted four years ago in heavy clay soil have multiplied to twenty and provide enough saffron for about three meals. It’s another delightful plant of fall that I watch with great anticipation for its surprise entry every September.