Colchicum autumnale

March 15, 2014 – 11:47 pm

006It is always a relief to see these Colchicum autumnale (often confusingly referred to as autumn crocuses when they are not crocuses at all – to add further confusion, there are several real crocuses that flower in the autumn). The unsightly brown, dried-up leaves disintegrated some weeks ago, and these lovely flowers keep on popping up now, to the delight of the bees and hoverflies.

There’s a difference between a bulb and a corm which really doesn’t bother most people, but a bulb has layers like an onion, or a daffodil. A corm is solid and can be propagated from slices of it. Colchicum is described as a ‘cormous perennial’, which as far as I am concerned is the same thing as a corm, and I shall continue to think of it as a bulb anyway. There’s a similar kind of difference between a tuber and a rhizome – don’t let’s go there!

likes deep fertile, well-drained soil that is not too dry (so the usual problem) and an open site in full sun.005 There is a variation in colour, and I am certain this is not because ours are of different varieties, but results from the differing amounts of light reaching them, and perhaps also the differences in their soils.

We use Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’ as a marker for C. autumnale which does the job in the winter and early spring before the leaves come up, and are developing my idea of planting the corms close to a Hosta with reasonably big overhanging leaves that will grow to conceal the dying colchicum leaves through the late spring and summer. I need to find a suitable Hosta variety for this – H. siebaldiana is too big, and H. ‘Halcyon’ and similar varieties too small really.001 n or variegated green ones. The colchicum photograph with the white Agapanthus alongside shows the colchicums amongst Hebe pinguifolia ‘Pagei’ which works quite well for colour and leaf concealment.

Charlie’s Column

003More about seeds and plants

One of the helpful things about all that stuff about how plants are named, is that it can help you in lots of ways. Have a look at the column opposite, and see about Colchicum autumnale. You can tell that is a species, and not a ‘Variety’ because there are no words in inverted commas after it, and by remembering its botanical name you won’t get the wrong plant, which you easily could if you referred to “Autumn crocuses”. It is not a plant that you would grow from seed, although it does produce seeds, but from planting a piece of the corm. But with plants that you do want to grow from seed, remember that a plant species usually comes true from its seed (that is the plant that grows from the seed should end up exactly the same as the plant the seed came from). And a plant ‘Variety’ usually won’t come true from seed, though some do. That’s why, if you look at a seed catalogue, a lot of the seeds offered are of mixed colours.


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Plants, kids, and pets??

Please check before you plant. Many common garden plants can make a child or a pet severely ill if not kill them. Put in "list common garden plants poison" and look at the websites. All parts of some plants, and only specific parts of other plants are toxic. These are just a few.
Daffodils, hyacinths
Castor Bean
Autumn crocus, Star of Bethlehem
Daphne, wisteria
Rhodys, azaleas
If you have children or pets please check before you plant.

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