My miracle flower

– Posted in: Colchicums, Plant info
10 comments

Colchicum agrippinumColchicums 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.

Spring foliage of Colchicum agrippinumSo 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.

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.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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Kathy Purdy October 1, 2006, 4:19 pm

Carol–C. agrippinum is not that common, so if you saw if you want that one in particular, you will probably have to get it mail order.

kerri September 29, 2006, 10:31 pm

They’re really lovely. I’ve noticed a few around since you posted about them. Thanks 🙂

Carol September 25, 2006, 8:46 pm

I think I shall try this one. I saw some yesterday at a local garden and they are so pretty, especially this time of year.

Annie in Austin September 22, 2006, 10:18 am

Kathy, you’ve reminded me of an old favorite Genus which I mistakenly thought couldn’t grow here…just found the common variety on a local expert’s planting list – yay!

I’ve had Calla lilies disappear for a year, and then show themselves eventually. Tulips can surprise you, too. Some bulbs that I dug up and gave to my son sat in a jar in his garage for nearly a year. When he finally planted them, some still bloomed. Tough little packages, those bulbs!

Annie

Kathy Purdy September 21, 2006, 4:38 pm

Actually, colchicums will grow in part shade, say, half a day of sun.

Don September 21, 2006, 9:39 am

That IS a beauty… if I had a big, fairly sunny garden, I’d have a whole bed of colchicums of all types, that I’d avoid planting twenty hostas, a Japanese maple,and a couple of azaleas on top of (now I AM dreaming)!

Kathy Purdy September 21, 2006, 6:09 am

Thanks for the confirmation. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

Oldroses September 20, 2006, 8:47 pm

Yup! Miracles do happen. I had the same thing happen with lily of the valley. Planted them. Nothing year 1. Nothing year 2. More lily of the valley than you could shake a stick at year 3. I’m still trying to figure out how it multiplied underground!