When we first started the process of buying our new house, I thought we’d be moving in August. In early July I started digging up colchicum corms as the leaves died down, indicating they were going dormant. It turns out the first date proposed for closing on a house is usually wildly optimistic, and my first opportunity to plant the corms in their new homes was Labor Day weekend–when it was raining.Long story short–I am still planting colchicums. It is disheartening to see them blooming in the bags. I’ve been told that it doesn’t hurt the plants in the longterm, as long as they get planted soon after. But it is a visual reminder that everything on my Moving To-Do list is not getting crossed off in a timely manner.
The weather has not been cooperating, but neither is the soil. This is what the native soil at the new place looks like:The heavy clay is saturated from record-breaking rainfall in our area, making it hard to remove sod and weeds to plant these fall-blooming flowers. But this is exactly what the soil was like at our current home when we moved in over twenty years ago. It is much improved now, which gives me hope for the future. But it still makes it slow going now.
For the Plant Geeks Among Us: Colchicum Botanical Structures
The silver lining in this horticultural cloud is the opportunity to see how colchicums “work.” Compared to other bulbous plants, they have an odd structure–a foot–that extends below the base of the corm. You can see in the photo below that the primary flowering shoot emerges from this foot.In this next photo, you can see the dried up leaves from spring, one flower stalk emerging from the foot, and a second stalk emerging from the corm proper. The stalk, by the way, is not a stem, but a perianth tube. It is all part of the flower. The ovary of the flower is down there at the bottom of the foot, buried underground under normal growing conditions. If it gets fertilized and seeds develop, they will emerge the following year in the center of the foliage. Compare that with rose ovaries, which are right behind the petals, and form what we call the hip. That’s where you’d normally expect to find the seeds in a typical flower, not buried in the ground, only to emerge six or more months later, as colchicum seeds do.
That’s one reason why I like colchicums. Besides being pretty, they are seriously weird.