Mid-season Colchicums

– Posted in: Colchicums

Colchicum season is long over, and I can’t even remember all the reasons why I didn’t write this post in a timely manner. I do remember finally getting all the photos processed, and promising myself I would upload them after dinner. And before I could do so, the DSL line was ripped off our house by a too-tall truck (we presume, since we didn’t see it) driving by, and that derailed me for another several days. (Details here.) Better late than never, right? On with the show!

Colchicums in bud vases outlined and identified

1) Colchicum autumnale ‘Alboplenum’ 2) C. ‘Zephyr’ 3) C. ‘Spartacus’ 4) C. x agrippinum 5) C. ‘Disraeli’ (aka ‘Beaconsfield’) 6) C. ‘Glory of Heemestede’ 7) C. ‘Nancy Lindsay’ 8) C. ‘Lilac Wonder’ 9) C. giganteum 10) C. ‘Poseidon’ 11) C. ‘TBD’ 12) C. ‘Giant’ all gathered on September 28.

As you can see, colchicums come in a range of sizes, shapes, and intensity of color. (The ‘Poseidon’ in this picture had the tube broken off and is typically taller than #8 but not as tall as #12.) These were all blooming in the middle of colchicum season–what I think of as the peak–since you still have a few of the early bloomers hanging on and a few late bloomers joining in early. Peak bloom varies from year to year, but I’d say the third week in September was the peak this year.

lilac wonder colchicum

‘Lilac Wonder’ has a reputation for floppiness.

lilac wonder colchicum closeup

I plant ‘Lilac Wonder’ at the top edge of a stone wall, so its floppiness is displayed to best advantage.

More on ‘Lilac Wonder’ here.
The Giant colchicum

Some call it ‘The Giant’, and others just list it as ‘Giant’. Either way, it’s the biggest colchicum I grow.

At the base of the same stone wall where ‘Lilac Wonder’ blooms at the top, ‘Giant’ steals the show. It’s not the most intensely colored flower, but because of its size, it’s easily visible from a distance. ‘Giant’ multiplies quickly, so if you buy one, you’ll soon have enough to front a wall as I have done. (I have concluded that the impostor discussed here is actually ‘Giant’.)Click to see Matt Mattus’ visit to my garden, featuring ‘Giant’ and other colchicums.

Will the real colchicum please stand up?

poseidon colchicum

‘Poseidon’, named after the god of the sea, is almost as big as ‘Giant’.

My original ‘Poseidon’ came from Odyssey Bulbs. This year I received one from Daffodils and More.
poseidon colchicums, old new

My original ‘Poseidon’ is bigger in every way than the new one.

Both the old and the new flowers have the same markings inside, however, and I’m wondering if the flowers of a more mature corm grow larger than a relatively young offset. Either that, or one of these plants is not the genuine ‘Poseidon’! On the other hand, the first year my original ‘Poseidon’ bloomed, it looked an awful lot like the newcomer.
Zephyr colchicum

I got my original ‘Zephyr’ the same year I got my original ‘Poseidon’ (2004).

And this year I ordered a new ‘Zephyr’ to compare it with the original.
zephyr colchicums old and new

The new ‘Zephyr’ is much smaller than the original one.

But as with the two ‘Poseidons’, the markings inside are the same. For comparison, here’s my original ‘Zephyr’. I think I will wait a year or two before deciding if one of them is an impostor. Just for fun, here’s a test of your observational skills.
one poseidon colchicum in a bunch of zephyrs

Can you find the one ‘Poseidon’ in all these ‘Zephyrs’? (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

(Answer at the end if you’re having trouble.) Yes, colchicums are often mixed up in the trade.
TBD colchicum

‘TBD’ = To Be Determined

That’s why David Burdick of Daffodils and More sells this one as ‘TBD’–he doesn’t know its true identity. My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that it’s the true Colchicum speciosum.
spartacus colchicum

‘Spartacus’ starts blooming about two weeks later than his cousin ‘Lysimachus’.

Click to see ‘Spartacus’ in 2013, its first year.
Colchicum giganteum

Don’t confuse Colchicum giganteum (a species) with C. ‘Giant’ (a hybrid).

C. giganteum is not nearly as tall as ‘Giant’ and has a distinctive Y-shaped blossom.
glory of heemstede

‘Glory of Heemstede’ is an old variety that is new to me.

‘Disraeli/Beaconsfield’ used to be the most intensely colored, tessellated colchicum in my collection. No more! They have been unseated by ‘Glory of Heemstede’. Va-va-va-voom! (Since this is new in my garden, it will probably bloom at a different time next year.)

Colchicums in the garden

Head shots of flowers let you see the details, but not how they look in a garden setting. This bed in front of the house has both some early bloomers and some mid-season flowers.

colchicums in the garden

Left to right: ‘Antares’, ‘Zephyr’, C. byzantinum ‘Innocence’, ‘TBD’, and ‘Poseidon’ in the ajuga–all blooming on September 22.

Seen from afar, some of them look pretty similar. The differences are in the details.

How to find Poseidon amongst the Zephyrs: ‘Zephyr’ has a white throat–almost like someone filled it about a third of the way up with white paint. ‘Poseidon’ is solidly colored with lilac-pink, except for a line of white on each petal radiating out from the center. The one ‘Poseidon’ corm is located at bottom center with multiple flowers blooming from it. At the old house, these two cultivars were planted next to each other, and that one ‘Poseidon’ jumped into the wrong bag when I brought them over to the new garden. But I never noticed it until this year!

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

Comments on this entry are closed.

Grass Tiger December 8, 2015, 10:49 am

Very interesting! You learn more everyday; glad that you could share this with us Kathy!

Gillian Sutton December 7, 2015, 6:50 am

Beautiful imagery!Great blog! Don’t know if you are better gardener or photographer. Keep up the good work, Kathy!

Frank December 5, 2015, 9:48 am

Beautiful writeup, you have me wishing I planted more colchicums this past fall!
love the giant, and love seeing it in front of the wall growing so happily. This was one of the first ones I ever grew, but I’ve since decided it’s not the real thing. It’s more like your TBD and nowhere near as tall as yours!
This was a weak fall for mine. I think the early, dry start to summer pushed them into dormancy too soon and some clumps didn’t put up a single bloom… but there’s always next year 🙂

Matt December 4, 2015, 11:53 pm

Thanks for sharing this post! Gotta call my wife to let her see this. Bet she’ll gonna love this kind of flower. 😀

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern December 3, 2015, 11:31 am

Lovely! I was expecting to see snow not this beautiful landscape of blooms – LOVE the wall!

Donna@Gardens Eye View December 3, 2015, 9:13 am

Kathy I love how you have labeled these so I can go on the hunt. I do love colchicums but need to add more in some new locations for fall next year. I have a few that need to be moved as well. I love the speckled look of ‘Glory of Heemstede’ especially.

Kathy Purdy December 3, 2015, 10:22 am

You will also like ‘Disraeli’ and ‘Beaconsfield’ if you like ‘GofH’. Happy hunting!

Barbarapc December 3, 2015, 8:06 am

Kathy – perfect antidote to post-mass-mailing for Kevin – I’ve just one or two varieties and unlike yours that seem so happy, mine diminish in size every year – a bit like daffs in my garden – sandy soil? The show against the stone wall is absolutely divine! What a brilliant sight.

Kathy Purdy December 3, 2015, 9:17 am

I’ve had some colchicum cultivars that didn’t linger in my garden, and I’ve always blamed poor drainage. But if you have sandy soil, that can’t be it. When daffodils stop blooming for me, I assume they need to be divided. Brent Heath, of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, once told me that daffodils won’t go blind if they’re getting enough nutrients, so perhaps some fertilizer is in order? I think colchicums like to be dry during the summer, but daffodils don’t mind rain in summer, as long as they’re not in a puddle. You have well and truly stumped me.

RD @ Rural Landscaping December 3, 2015, 4:17 am

Those flowers look amazing they will surely catch anyone’s attention. Just want to ask is it difficult to grow such flowers? And can we grow them all year round?

Kathy Purdy December 3, 2015, 9:07 am

RD, you should look up colchicums online or check out the rest of my writing on colchicums. I certainly think they can be grown in New Zealand, but they don’t grow all year round. Most bulbs and corms don’t.

Joanne Toft December 2, 2015, 8:25 pm

So glad you posted this today – it is dark and dull looking here today. Dark grey clouds, dirt snow and ice and just grey all over. This just perked things up a bit. They are beautiful. A fun bit of spring color in the fall!

Kathy Purdy December 2, 2015, 9:04 pm

So glad I could brighten your day, Joanne. Dingy, dark, and rainy here. Snow possible tonight. You hit upon the biggest appeal of colchicums: fresh like spring, but blooming in the fall!

Pat Webster December 2, 2015, 6:12 pm

Kathy, I really like the way the colchicums look against the stone wall, whether dropping over the top or standing up at the bottom.

Kathy Purdy December 2, 2015, 7:04 pm

Thanks, Pat. I got the idea to plant in front of the wall from a long-ago White Flower Farm catalog.

Leslie December 2, 2015, 5:18 pm

Those are so beautiful and they look so wonderful in drifts! You tempt me to try them again some day.

Kathy Purdy December 2, 2015, 7:07 pm

Leslie, I would think you would be successful with species that aren’t even hardy for me. There are species native to the warmer parts of the Mediterranean that would probably like your climate.

Dee/reddirtramblings December 2, 2015, 3:57 pm

They are so lovely Kathy and grow so well in your garden. Thank you for sharing them and letting us know more about the mid-season varieties. ~~Dee