Colchicums as a whole are pretty miraculous, emerging from out of nowhere and blooming without leaves, but this particular variety (Colchicum agrippinum) takes the cake. I planted it in autumn of 2004. It didn’t bloom then, and it failed to send up leaves in 2005. Not surprisingly, it didn’t bloom in 2005, either. When it didn’t send up leaves last spring, I had given it up for dead, a mail-order stillborn.
So I was pretty delighted when I discovered the leaves shooting up this spring. Delighted? Heck, try totally amazed. How many flower bulbs do you know of that emerge after spending a year and a half underground? And I had every right to expect it to be dead, seeing as Odyssey Bulbs, my supplier, suggests it for Zone 5-6 hardiness and recommends well-drained soil. I lucked out with the winter temperatures–not too much sub-zero (F) weather–and in lieu of well-draining soil I planted it at the foot of a moisture-sucking lilac bush, in a place where the first frosts tend to miss.
So it was “iffy” to begin with. A horticultural gamble, that, for one season at least, paid off. I wanted to try it (for the second time, I might add) because of the wonderfully checkerboard (tessellated, if you’re a botanist) appearance of the petals. Other more hardy colchicums have faint checkerboarding, but none match C. agrippinum in the distinctness of the tessellation. According to E. A. Bowles, C. variegatum has even more distinct tessellation, but just try finding that one in commerce. As a parent of C. agrippinum, it quite possibly would be equally “iffy” even if I did find it for sale somewhere.
But who knows? Miracles do happen.