Autumn Queen, revisited

– Posted in: Colchicums
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'Autumn Queen' in 2003'Autumn Queen' in 2004'Autumn Queen' looking down into it

It’s that time of year again–colchicum season. I thought that this year, in addition to talking about my new acquisitions, I would try to focus on the ones I didn’t get around to posting on last year, and avoid deluging you with photos unless they were clearly better than last year’s. And having thus firmly resolved not to bore you with colchicum tedium, I immediately discovered I wanted to make an exception.

Just see how vigorous Colchicum ‘Autumn Queen’ is. I only planted it last fall, and look at how many more blossoms it is putting forth this year! I count ten blossoms on the stalk that had three last year, and five on the stalk that had a single flower. Just like last year, it is quite early. It started blooming August 31st. Only a few of the earliest Colchicum byzantinums, which are not yet out in full force, bloomed earlier.

Like many other late summer and early fall plants, they are blooming earlier than usual, which makes me suspect that summer temperatures have something to do with bloom times. But I’m not sure, and no one else seems to know, either. If it’s temperature, it must be soil temperature, not air temperature, because they spend the whole summer below ground. But maybe it is the conditions prevailing when their leaves are up in spring that makes a difference. If I kept better records, maybe I could come to some sort of conclusion.

I also wanted you to see the inside of the flower. The white center is typical of many of the colchicums I grow. And if you click on the 2004 photo, you can see the tesselation (checkerboard pattern) on the petals. It is not as prominent as it is on some varieties, but it’s there.

‘Lilac Wonder’ is the one that flops. I dug it up this spring, and the one bulb, purchased in 2000, had made ten. Collin planted them on Tuesday at the edge of the stone retaining wall of the birthday garden, and we’ll have to see if they look as well there as I imagined. Today, we planted the ill-named speciosum and ‘The Giant’ that I had complained about looking so alike–two of the three “triplets.” I had dug them up in late spring, and we replanted them in front of the lilac hedge, Collin making the holes with my long transplanting spade from Lee Valley, and me popping them in the holes with my uninjured hand. In a couple of years, I’m hoping this will look spectacular.

You may have noticed I haven’t linked to any of my previous colchicum posts. All that copying and pasting of links gets pretty tedious. But I did create a new Colchicum category, and reassigned all the old posts to it, so they should be pretty easy to find if you’re so inclined. Oh, and if anyone starts growing colchicums themselves as a result of reading about them here, I’d really, really like to hear from you.

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.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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