Autumn Herald and Violet Queen

– Posted in: Colchicums
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Colchicum 'Autumn Herald'Colchicum 'Violet Queen'
These were the next two to bloom after ‘Autumn Queen’. ‘Violet Queen’ I’ve had for a while. According to E. A. Bowles in Crocus & Colchicum, which is considered to be the definitive book on colchicums, ‘Violet Queen’ “has long pointed segments closely tesselated [that means checkered] on a bluish lilac ground contrasting pleasantly with the conspicuously white throat and central channels of segments [petals].” McClure and Zimmerman describe it as ‘rich, imperial purple with a white throat. Moderately tesselated. Early flowering.” Brent and Becky’s Bulbs also says “rich, imperial purple flowers.” And John Bryan, in his massive reference work Bulbs, weighs in with “flowers faintly checkered with imperial purple and white lines in throat; distinctive orange anthers.”

What is this with imperial purple? I don’t know what the difference is between imperial purple and plain old purple, but what I have growing under the name of ‘Violet Queen’ looks neither violet nor purple to me. Bowles was closer with bluish lilac, but I don’t see any tesselation. It does have a white throat and a hint of a white line down the center of each petal, which I think is what Bowles meant by the channels of the segments.

So I don’t know what the deal is. Do I have a mislabelled plant, or is it another case of nurserymen playing fast and loose with the naming of colors? Or does the color and tessellation show up better in different environmental conditions (soil, air temp, soil temp, etc.)? I don’t know. I remember being disappointed with the color when it first bloomed, because I was expecting purple-crayon purple, but it has increased well and is one of the first to bloom, so it actually gives a lot of pleasure as long as I don’t read the catalog copy. I recommend it to you, and if you do grow it, let me know what color yours is.

Now that I’ve told you more than you could possibly want to know about ‘Violet Queen,’ on to ‘Autumn Herald.’ Russell Stafford, from whom I bought ‘Autumn Herald’ last year, credits this colchicum with “wine-purple, ivory-eyed flowers . . . [with] September to October bloom.” McClure and Zimmerman claim “amethyst-violet flowers have inner segments of deeper violet-purple with a broad ivory-white base and pale orange anthers.” Wine-purple, amethyst-violet: I hate to say it, but it looks like almost exactly the same color as “imperial purple” ‘Violet Queen.’ And I really didn’t see any difference between the inner and outer segments. Actually, I failed to distinguish inner and outer segments; the blossoms just looked like they had one row of petals. And unless it starts up another flush of bloom, it’s not blooming into October–it’s done.

This is why I despair of becoming a colchicum expert: I can’t tell a lot of these hybrids apart. I have to admit, if I had ‘Autumn Queen,’ ‘Violet Queen,’ and ‘Autumn Herald’ growing side-by-side and lost the labels, I wouldn’t know which was which. I think. Next year I will try to cut one of each and really hold them next to each other. Maybe that will help. Maybe.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

. . . the difference between great daffodils and common ones is not so vast as one thinks in the first flush of excitement when one starts being serious about daffodils.

~Henry Mitchell in The Essential Earthman: Henry Mitchell on Gardening

2 Comments… add one

Kathy October 4, 2003, 12:35 pm

Yes, when you start comparing catalog copy, you find they all sound alike. They often seem to be echoing Bryan’s _Bulbs_, though sometimes they will admit to quoting Bowles.

Judith October 3, 2003, 11:58 pm

I agree. I have Violet Queen, bought under the same assumption, and it isn’t very purple or very exciting, but it is sturdy. My guess is that folks read someone else’s description and just copy the color name/wording. Imperial violet is that murex-color the ancients used, and I would guess closer to magenta. As magenta is usually a no-no in garden fashion, do you suppose Imperial violet was substituted in an early marketing strategy?
Colchicums are good cut (maybe you’ve already said that & I missed it–sorry–) so you can hold them for comparison next year.

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