The New Kids on the Block

Isn’t it always the first to flower of any group of plants which seem to get us most excited. We see the first peep above the ground and are out each day to monitor progress, clicking away with the camera at the first show of colour even before the flower is fully open at all. There is obviously, I now consider, a dark side to my personality for I regularly have a feeling of foreboding, a fear that the treasured and special plant will not appear this year but will have fallen foul of some pest or disease. I have a keen interest in snowdrops and have been a little disappointed that the early cultivars had not made an appearance but I had the reassurance yesterday of seeing three snouts peeping from pots in the glasshouse. These are cultivars of the Greek species, Galanthus reginae-olgae, which like a very hot and very dry rest period before being resurrected by autumn rains, provided by the watering can in the glasshouse. I can’t provide such hot dry conditions in the garden – though climate change does seem to be going in that direction – and have had success with them under cover. I should have a flower to show by next week!

In the open garden, the plant receiving my attention at present is the colchicum – regularly and incorrectly referred to as an autumn crocus which it is not but a completely different genus of plant altogether. I suppose it resembles a large crocus and that explains this mistake. We’ve grown a few of the more common cultivars for a number of years and added a few more uncommon varieties in recent years and I can see further additions in coming years. Brexit regulations prevented my placing an order with Potterton’s Nursery this year as Rob can’t post the bulbs to Ireland at the moment and I am searching for a supplier within the E.U.

It seems that there has been widespread mix-up regarding the names of some of these colchicums – plants supplied not true to name etc and then that name becoming attached to the incorrect plant – so, while I have two large and old clumps of what I have always called Colchicum autumnale, I couldn’t swear that that is what they are, though I think they are true to name. I’m looking forward to receiving a copy of “Colchicums, The Complete Guide” during the week and, no doubt, I’ll be an expert by next weekend!

Colchicum autumnale, full and floppy and very beautiful:

The clump of Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ growing in the garden could very well be renamed The Resurrection Plant as it has made what can only be described as a miraculous comeback in the last few years. The bulbs, originally planted near a group of young hornbeams trees, did beautifully for several years and were especially attractive with behind a planting of that black “grass”, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’. However, over the years as the trees grew and grew, the bulbs were overcome by their roots and were starved of nourishment and, probably more criticallly, of moisture. I rescued the bulbs from this situation three years ago and replanted them in good soil where they would have no competition and they have recovered fabulously. I’m delighted with them!

Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, looking pretty but the numbers had declined dramatically.

Colchicum ‘Rosy Dawn’ has been slower to built up numbers but the white throat is very attractive and I think it will look well in coming years:

Colchicum ‘Old Bones’ is a delicate looking little thing but has wonderfully clear white flowers that I find very attractive. I have it planted on a raised bed, a place where it won’t have to jostle with competition and will be less likely damaged while we are working on the garden.

Just open today, a single flower, but enough to promise a nice display to come: Colchicum ‘Dick Trotter’

Colchicum ‘Dick Trotter’

Other colchicums have finished flowering; others have yet to come and I’ve ordered a couple of new cultivars only today so next year will have some more of interest and I shall watch out with nervousness and anticipation for each to appear in its turn.

9 thoughts on “The New Kids on the Block

  1. Colchicums are such magical plants! I had a couple last year, and they came back in Spring and flowered away but then retreated under ground and there is no sign of them yet!!!! I may have to look out for replacements! Yours are all looking well so your TLC is working!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s their normal cycle – flower in autumn; foliage in spring; dormant in summer and back into flower in autumn so they should come along soon.

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