Colchicum Glory of Heemstede – the autumn crocus
and the pure white variety… Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’
Naked ladies eh? That should increase the visitor numbers to this blog, though how disappointing to be confronted with the Autumn Crocus! Naked, because the flowers appear before the leaves. X-rated this is not.
There are crocuses which flower in the autumn, and of course those that flower in the spring. Autumn- flowering crocuses are not the same as these majestic beauties, the Autumn Crocus. If in doubt, count the stamens, – colchicums have six, crocus have three. If you can find bulbs, get them into the ground as soon as you can and they will be up before you know it.
Autumn flowering colchicums need moisture-retentive, fertile soil to flower well. They’re best grown in a sheltered spot that enjoys afternoon sun because this encourages a good succession of wide-open flowers. In deep shade, you’ll only get a very few spindly ones.
Dry bulbs are most readily available in July or August and should be planted, as soon as they arrive, at a depth of 7.5cm to 10cm (3in to 4in). Specialist nurseries will supply plants at other times, too.
Enrich poorer soils by adding good friable compost. However if yours tends to be heavy, improve the drainage by adding coarse grit. Top dress with well-rotted manure or garden compost during dormancy (from November until February) and use a foliar feed, such as seaweed extract, in spring.
Don’t cut unsightly leaves off; they need to die down naturally to replenish the corm.
How to propagate
Colchicums should be divided every fourth year when the leaves have died – so, in July or August, lift and replant immediately.