It was just a few years ago that I discovered the existence of fall blooming bulbs. At first I thought they meant fall planted bulbs and had just gotten confused. But no, not only were there things like fall blooming crocus, there were several types of those along with other bulb species. The very first ones we tried were Crocus speciosus, above. The first batch was planted in late August and were up and blooming within five weeks. We made the mistake of planting them in a container and moving them to the ground after the blooms had finished. The reason that was a mistake is that the flowers come up first, then the foliage shows and remains, building energy for the next year’s flowers, until summer of the following year. They then go dormant and disappear. The flowers return in October to start the process again. The foliage of that maiden planting was not allowed to grow and feed the bulbs as it should have and they never returned. My bad.
Not to be deterred, the same type were ordered again the next summer, planted in very well drained sandy soil in the front raised planter and along the walkway to the front door where they could remain undisturbed. They have returned faithfully for several years now. The contrast of the brilliant dark orange stamens with violet veining on the pale blue petals is the perfect contrast for the fall hues of red, yellow and oranges of the deciduous among us.
Finding the right companions for these fall beauties has been less than successful, but the above groundcover of Ajuga reptans looks good. Something is needed to cover the bare legs of the blooms and help prop up those spindly chicken legs holding heavy blooms until the foliage appears. The planting of the speciosus was also another example of the planting technique of plopping a few here, a few there. Where is that shock collar for the gardener when needed, to force the correct planting of all together now? Bzzzz.
This year we came under the spell of the family of Colchicums, after a conversation with an expert on the subject, Kathy Purdy of Cold Climate Gardening at the Buffalo Blogger Meetup this past July. She has written several blog posts about the Colchicums that can be found here for more information. Her good luck with them, using lots of varieties, led us to order some for ourselves. Shown above is C. ‘Rosy Dawn’ from Brent And Becky’s Bulbs. Note to self: next year order the fall blooming bulbs sooner so that most will not already be sold out!
These are very large bulbs, each one spurting forth several strong stems of giant crocus-like old fashioned light bulb shaped flowers. They like good drainage, like the true crocus do, and have been planted along the driveway round under some clumps of pink Muhlenbergia capillaris. It is hoped that the pinks will combine nicely in the future as the bulbs multiply to fill in as slippers for the princess grass.
Ordered at the same time from Brent And Becky’s were C. ‘Violet Queen’. Some of these were already sprouting by the time they arrived in late September. They went from planting to blooming in less than a month.
That is as close to instant gratification that bulb gardening has to offer. Violet Queen was interplanted among the emerging tips of Crocus speciosus for a fuller and more lush showing. The Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’ will offer an appropriate background for them in the raised front bed. It is hoped.
This bed has been troubled by varmints of the rodent variety, among them the vandal voles. It has been said that the critters do not care for the Colchicums, so the plan is that the larger colchs will deter the digging devils. Chickenwire was placed over the planting area until the bulbs emerged, as another layer of de-fence.
The native Tennessee stone that was added to the foundation of the house along with the frontage of the addition and the built by the stonemasons raised planter is worthy of the finest plantings. The Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ are used extensively in these front gardens along with some in the back. The lemon lime of the sedum should make a nice evergreen color coordination with the blue and voilet. The Crocus and Colchicums are the jewelry accessorizing the outfit. There is a small cutleaf red leaf Japanese Maple just out of the shot behind the Blue Stars. The short grass-like foliage that can be seen to the far right of the image is another very special fall bloomer.
Crocus sativus, also known as Saffron Crocus, of culinary fame, has returned to bloom after taking a year off with foliage only. The narrow blades appear before the flowers on this one, unlike the speciosus and Colchicums which show the flowers first. It may be that the energy expended to produce flowers takes two years to recharge. That has been the experience here so far. We shall see what happens in 2011 before speaking as if that is the truth of it. The gorgeous red stamens are the part of this crocus that is used in cooking and is said to be the most expensive , by weight, of any commodity in the world. A full report on the harvesting, with close up photos of tweezers in hand can be seen by clicking here-Mad About Saffron. This post remains one of those few with legs, meaning that many people still come by Fairegarden to read the two year old story. So far, the stamens have been plucked from the two flowers that have opened. When all flowers have been so robbed, we will again make some kind of delicious dish with the spice. Last time it was a chicken and rice combo, shared with my dear friend Gail of Clay and Limestone while she was visiting here for the first time. Maybe she can be enticed to come again with the thought of Saffron wafting through the kitchen.