Fall is the 2nd best season in New England (after summer). It’s warmer than spring and the vegetation is lush. The trees look a little tired as they lose their chlorophyll, but at least their death throes are beautiful, especially oaks and some maples.
If fall leaves aren’t colorful enough for you and you’re tired, tired, tired of ubiquitous mums (snore), plant colchicum (Colchicaceae) to brighten your fall garden.
Colchicum are also known as autumn crocus because of their resemblence to that spring-blooming species. However, they’re not in the crocus family; they’re actually in the lily family and are very different from crocus. Other common names for colchicum include naked ladies and mountain saffron.
Colchicum do look like spring crocus, but they bloom in September and October. Their leaves, however, appear in the spring, but they disappear in the fall, leaving the blooms to appear on the leaf-less stalks. Colchicums can be found in white, lavender, and a variety of shades of pink.
When you buy a colchicum, you get a corm, which is a bulb-y, tuber-y kind of thing. You can buy colchicum through most reputable bulb dealers.
Beloved by gardeners because they bloom almost as soon as you plant them–within 3-4 weeks–colchicum are usually planted in August. (You’re probably thinking, well doofus, why didn’t you post about it in August, but well….) Anyway, boom, a month later, there they are, just in time to take the place of all your dying perennials and annuals.
All parts of the colchicum are poisonous when eating, so be careful where you plant them if you have plant-eating animals or children.
I’ll write about another season-extender tomorrow–witch hazel, so stay tuned. And enjoy your fall.
Photo 1 courtesy of UW-Madison Botanical Garden. Photo 2 courtesy of Wayside Gardens.