The Newest Colchicums On The Block

– Posted in: Colchicums

I know a lot more about colchicums than I once did, thanks to the internet. And now I’m growing colchicums I never would have known about, if it weren’t for the internet and the people I’ve been able to “meet” through the internet.

A man with extensive connections in the Dutch bulb trade–I’ll call him Mr. C–sent me some colchicums from his family’s collection. To be more accurate, he sent me a spreadsheet listing all the bulbous plants in this collection, and I limited myself to colchicums that I didn’t already have and had never seen for sale in the U.S. They were shipped across the Atlantic and some were starting to bloom when I got them, so they may not look like their best selves. But I didn’t want to wait for another year to pass before I showed them to you.

Colchicum bivonae Apollo

Colchicum bivonae ‘Apollo’

I already had a different C. bivonae, ‘Giona,’ which I purchased from Odyssey Bulbs. According to Odyssey Bulbs, ‘Giona’ is hardy to Zone 6, and I’m a cold zone 5. I planted ‘Apollo’ in the Herb Garden–right next to ‘Giona’. The Herb Garden is where I put all my “iffy” plants because it has the best drainage and the warmest microclimate, and I suspected that ‘Apollo’ would have the same hardiness as ‘Giona’.

However, ‘Giona’ has been thriving there, and I’m feeling brave enough (meaning I have a corm to spare) to try it in the rest of the garden. ‘Apollo’ has nice deep coloring and the tessellation (checkering) which is typical of C. bivonae. Since it was planted rather late, it’s not surprising that ‘Apollo’ bloomed later than ‘Giona’. I think ‘Apollo’ was darker. Maybe next year they will bloom at the same time so I can compare them.

Colchicum speciosum Gracia

Colchicum speciosum ‘Gracia’ was next to bloom.

Of the five corms I was sent, only one bloomed, and because of the rain and lack of sunshine, the one bloom was rather underwhelming. Click here to see what I might expect next year.
Princess Astrid aka Autumn Queen

‘Princess Astrid’ is also known as ‘Autumn Queen’

‘Princess (or Prinses) Astrid’ also had intense color, but the flowers came up so rumpled I can’t really tell you more.
Colchicum William Dykes

‘William Dykes’ has a somewhat almond shape, similar to ‘Jochem Hof’ but without Jochem’s intensity of color.

Colchicum Daendels

‘Daendels’ looked very similar to ‘Gracia’, except that ‘Daendels’ had a yellow tube instead of a white one.

Colchicum September sun

‘September Sun’ was named by Mr. C

It was one of the hybrids developed by Walter Blom, an American nurseryman who was better known for his daffodil breeding. (Walter Blom and Mr. C’s father were friends.) Before Mr. C named it, ‘September Sun’ was merely labeled 803-5.
Colchicum macrophyllum

I am looking forward to seeing Colchicum macrophyllum settle in.

The tessellation and vivid color of this species are intriguing. I have it planted in the Herb Garden because I fear it won’t be hardy here. Even if the cold doesn’t kill it, this perpetual rain just might. I’ll let you know come spring if the leaves make an appearance.

I saved my favorite for last. It was described on the spreadsheet as a “mutant” of Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’. This was another one from Walter Blom. I thought when it bloomed I would see a pure white flower with a strange shape, perhaps like ‘Harlekijn’. But no.

Colchicum Special Delivery

Instead what emerged was this glowing vivid color with the curvaceous goblet shape of ‘Album’. Mr. C has named it ‘Special Delivery’

Colchicum Special Delivery

Here’s another picture of it. It really is quite special.

In English I think we’d be more likely to call ‘Special Delivery’ a sport of C. speciosum ‘Album’ rather than a mutant. A sport of a plant is a mutation, but “mutant” has the expectation that it will be ugly (I think) whereas sports are often desirable plants in their own right, as ‘Special Delivery’ certainly is.

One more Walter Blom hybrid, 403-2, was a complete no-show. That sometimes happens with newly-planted colchicums shipped from far away. I hope I get to see it bloom next year.

I have learned from my membership in the Crocus and Colchicum Facebook group that there are many colchicums available in other parts of the world that aren’t available here. I’d love to have the chance to grow ‘Ungarnrot’, ‘Jenny Robinson’, ‘Flamenco Dance’, ‘Teufelskralle’ and ‘Herbstkugel’–and those are just the ones I remembered to write down.

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.

Linda from Each Little World November 9, 2018, 3:41 pm

Every one is fascinating. I’ve ordered a few bulbs and seedlings from Odyssey. I’ve had more of a problem with the critters eating the blooms (esp. of Fritallies) before I see them. Thus I am less willing to take a chance. But looking at yours, I think I need to be more open to risk.

Kathy Purdy November 9, 2018, 4:46 pm

Linda, colchicums contain colchicine, which is poisonous to animals. The only thing that might eat your colchicums is slugs. I only had a problem with them one year, and it was mostly limited to one particular variety, oddly.

Patricia Evans November 8, 2018, 9:06 am

Wow, so many different varieties (even though most of us probably can’t tell the difference). I really like the star shaped one, second from last photo. I don’t have any colchicums and fear they would not survive my chipmunk, squirrel, and mole infested habitat.

Kathy Purdy November 8, 2018, 9:53 pm

Patricia, colchicums are poisonous to all the animals you mention–and deer as well.

Lisa at Greenbow November 8, 2018, 8:30 am

I feel like such a slackard after reading about how many different types of Colchicums you have. I didn’t even know there were so many. I have only one type. It didn’t bloom this year. I hope it isn’t lost and gone forever. It did this to me one other year. I hope it returns next fall. I have often wondered why it did this disappearing act and to do it again…Hmmmmm.

Kathy Purdy November 8, 2018, 9:52 pm

I don’t know, Lisa. Maybe it’s not getting enough sunshine on the leaves? Some varieties are more sensitive to soil moisture than others. The picky ones can rot if the soil isn’t freely draining.