Colchicum season is winding down. I only found two new varieties blooming when I went out on patrol. But plenty of the ones I’ve already profiled continue to send up flowers.‘Spartacus’ is new this year for me. Right now it has the same pastel color as C. byzantinum, but since I’ve never grown it before, I have no idea if the color will deepen once we get cooler nights again. (It’s only predicted to go down to 59F [15c] tonight.) Not only does the color resemble that of C. byzantinum, but the shape of the petals is similar. However, C. byzantinum has purplish-red styles with little hooks at the top. And while C. ‘Spartacus’ has white at the bottom inside, C. byzantinum doesn’t have that. ‘Spartacus’ doesn’t have the goblet or tulip shape that so many colchicums have. That’s another way it is similar to C. byzantinum. I bought both C. ‘Spartacus’ and C. ‘Lysicmachus’ from Odyssey Bulbs this year. They came earlier this fall so that I could plant them before they bloomed. I planted them the same day, but ‘Spartacus’ bloomed a good two weeks later. I just rescued Colchicum autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’ from a weed-choked bed at the old house. I don’t know why I didn’t bring it over sooner. It emerged white and is just starting to color up. It’s interesting how these variations on C. autumnale all bloom at different times. Superficially, ‘Pleniflorum’ looks like ‘Waterlily’. ‘Waterlily’ isn’t blooming yet, so I can’t compare the two for you. The best I can say is ‘Pleniflorum’ looks delicate and ‘Waterlily’ looks robust. ‘Waterlily’ blooms latest of all for me, and most years doesn’t look that attractive, since by the time it blooms we are having hard freezes (28F [-2C] and colder), which turns the petals brown. Maybe this is the year I will get a flattering photo of ‘Waterlily’–stay tuned.
I do, of course, make diagrams of planting areas that are relatively complex, to be sure I have considered relationships of height, form, color, and seasonal change…though about eighty percent is lost in the translation to the real garden. I have concluded that the conception in the gardener’s head is an art form of one kind and the creation of an actual picture out of living plant material is an art form of quite another kind. Both are satisfying, but their relationship to each other is, in my experience, tenuous.
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