Friday, August 31, 2012


Colchicums blooming now in my garden
     I am finally accumulating mass quantities of Colchicums in my garden and the show is just beginning!  Colchicums, for those new to them, are bulbs native mostly to west Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean region.  The ones I grow in my garden bloom in the early fall starting now and they bloom while there is no foliage on the plant.  The foliage comes after the bloom and lasts until early summer when it dies away completely, leaving the ground bare for a couple of months until the flowers appear. 
     The foliage,  while it is there, is fairly wide and luxurious so it cannot be ignored.  This growing pattern of colchicums makes them a challenge to site in a garden, yet the beautiful flowers which pop up so suddenly now when there is not much that is fresh in the garden make them eminently worthwhile.  Colchicums also like the sun and would not do as well in heavy shade so that rules out planting them in some dark dank corner of the garden.  I have read, however, that they can be planted under the high shade cast by large deciduous trees, although I have not tried them in that situation.
     They are drought tolerant and I originally planted mine in my front border where they receive no supplemental water.  They have done very well there and have greatly multiplied.  For example, the colchicum in the picture is one I got at least 5 years ago (and maybe more) from Odyssey Bulbs and I probably got at least 50 additional bulbs this year from 5 bulbs I originally planted.  I did not even dig up the original bulbs to get these additional ones--I just used my hands to scoop out the sort of loose bulbs at the surface.
      For those who want to know the name of this colchicum, I have lost its ID, so you are out of luck.  However, based on other colchicums I have grown, they are all good. I don't think you could go wrong ordering any, although I personally like the single flowered bright pink ones.
     To go back to the problem of siting these bulbs, in my front border I grow them around and between the spiky stars of the front border-- the nolinas, dasylirions, and yuccas.  They lend themselves to planting in this kind of dryland border when one does not expect the ground to always be covered with foliage.  I have, however, started to plant more of them in my more traditional garden borders and I am still experimenting with what, if anything, to interplant them with.  In his book on succession planting Christopher Lloyd mentions that he plants them so they are surrounded by a carpet on Adiantum venustum, and that Beth Chatto plants them in a bed of periwinkles.  I don't really want to do either of those things, but after experimenting with annuals this year (see this post) it has occured to me to try some annuals which would do their main show after the colchicum foliage dies down but before the flowers appear.  I will let you know how this goes in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! love these. Every year I promise myself I'll plant a few of these and every year get too busy then forget about it until I see them blooming in someone else's garden...