Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Diary September 2011 - Mini-blog

Somehow all that heat and humidity of summer has faded and autumn is here! Now having said that, half of that statement is a lie. It was 27 degrees today and HOT in the sun! But that's typical fall in Ontario - hot, summer-type days mixed in with very cool ones. Ahhh....I love the seasons. Well 3 of them anyway.
I thought I would do a short entry about some really interesting flowers my friend Lynn from Hort Society told me about years ago and then gave me. They are called Autumn Crocus.

Here they are in a sea of periwinkle (which I need to drastically eradicate this fall or next spring. I mean, call in the bobcat and dig that ground cover OUT!)
Here's some information from Wikipedia:
Colchicum autumnale, commonly known as autumn crocus, meadow saffron or naked lady, is a flower which resembles the true crocuses, but flowering in autumn. (This is not a reliable distinction, however, since there are many true crocuses that flower in autumn.) The name "naked lady" comes from the fact that the flowers emerge from the ground long after the leaves have died back.
And that's true.
In the spring I get all these long tulip-like leaves that come up. I often forget I have them so I see the leaves and wonder what they are? Oh yea! These are the great flowers that will appear out of nowhere again in the fall!

Colchicums are not related to the crocus family at all, but are members of the lily family (Liliaceae). Another common name for colchicum is meadow saffron. This too is a misnomer. Colchicums are in fact poisonous and are not edible like the crocus that produces saffron, which we use in cooking.
I have light mauve coloured ones but they also come in light pink, magenta and even white.

Here are the planting instructions:
Plant colchicum corms as soon as possible after you purchase them. If they are left in a warm location for any length of time, they will bloom without being planted. Set the corms 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) deep and about 15 cm (6 inches) apart. In the spring their 15- to 20-cm long strap-like leaves emerge. By early summer the leaves turn yellow and die back. At this point, the plant can look a bit messy. If you plant colchicums among low growing perennials or in front of a group of deciduous shrubs, the unsightly foliage can be nicely disguised. In September or October the plant starts to bloom. Once established, colchicums multiply annually.
Colchicums prefer a sunny but sheltered location. Although they do tolerate some shade. They are hardy from zones 4 to 9.
When the plants begin to look crowded, divide the clumps by carefully lifting them and separating the individual corms. Do this just after they have flowered to avoid damaging the corms. Replant immediately about 15 cm (6 inches) apart.

Here are some tips about Autumn Crocus as well as some specific recommended varieties:

In the fall avoid raking the leaves where colchicums are planted. The fallen leaves provide a lovely backdrop for the flowers and help to support the flower stems. (OR keep a small patch of periwinkle just to surround the colchicums. Hmmm...may be dangerous considering how periwinkle spreads!)

Colchicums are poisonous and rodents and deer leave them alone.

Recommended Varieties:

•Autumnale 'Album' has white flowers and is smaller than most. They bloom in mid-fall growing 13 cm (4 to 6 inches) high.

•Autumnale 'Alboplenum' has large, white, double flowers with several blooms to each bulb. They bloom mid-fall growing to13 cm (4 to 6 inches) high.

•Autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’ ('Roseum Plenum') is a rosy, double flowered, late blooming variety that grows 13+ cm (4 to 6 inches) high.

•Bornmuelleri has large rosy purple, fragrant flowers with a white heart and purple anthers. It grows 20+ cm (8 inches) high.

•Byzantinum produces up to 6 pale pink flowers and is one of the earliest types to bloom. The leaves don't appear until spring and are broader and more ribbed than most. They grow 24+ cm (10 inches) or taller.

•Giant has bright rose/lilac flowers with a white centre and base. It is one of the tallest and largest, growing over 24 cm (10 inches) and is very free flowering from early to mid fall.

(Just thought I'd throw in a great autumn colour picture where the Autumn Crocus barely shows but trust me - it's there!!)


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