Why wait for spring?

I’m halfway enjoying fall this year.  Yes, everything is dying, it’s too dry, and we face months of snowy gloom, but right now the fall bulbs are blooming and it’s a little bit of rebirth right before *the end* (sorry but I will never actually look forward to the arrival of winter).  The hardy cyclamen, in this case cyclamen hederifolium, have been blooming for several weeks now.

naturalized cyclamen

I was ambitious this year and spread a little shredded wood mulch around the cyclamen bed. For a while it looked immaculate under the cherry….. but within minutes the dirty little tree resumed its leaf dropping….

Last winter the polar vortex was brutal on these little guys.  Fortunately they’ve shrugged off the foliage loss and act as if nothing at all happened.  I wish I had clearer photos, but out of the dozens of cyclamen pictures I took, these were the only two which came out halfway in focus.  I need a photo mentor who can begin to point out some of my worst mistakes 🙂

hardy cyclamen hederifolium

For me the best thing about these hardy cyclamen hederifolium are the leaf patterns, but the flowers aren’t too shabby either….

Cyclamen are the best, but colchicums follow at a close second.  Actually the colchicums do put on a more impressive show, but it’s all or nothing with these ladies, and ends more quickly than the slow and steady cyclamen display.

colchicum flower bed

Most of my favorite colchicums are together in this bed. It’s bone dry (the third gooseberry bush actually died this summer) but the bulbs seem right at home.

I’ve devoted the way-too-dry-for-vegetables end of the veggie patch to colchicums and daffodils, and they seem happy enough here, but as the garden grows I’m thinking there might be something better to do with this spot for the other 11 months of the year.  Amaranthus once filled the bed, but the soil was too dry for them to survive this summer.

colchicum '‘Harlekijn’ 'Harlequin'

New this year, colchicum ‘‘Harlekijn’ is what I’d call “interesting”. Most pictures show more pink to the bloom, but that might change from year to year. Overall I like the curious rolled (or quilled) petals and they do make for something ‘different’ 🙂

The few colchicums I have planted in the meadow seem just as happy and to my eye look a little more comfortable growing amongst the barely green grass.  In fact the only bulb of colchicum autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’ to bloom for me is this one planted in the lawn.

colchicum autumnale 'Pleniflorum'

The colchicum autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’ planted in the official colchicum bed don’t bother blooming. This one in the lawn seems marginally more happy and is even gracing us with the sprouting of a second flower bud.

The (I think ) ‘Lilac Wonder’ planted in the lawn is possibly my favorite colchicum.  It blooms long, large, and heavily and makes quite the pool of color.  I’m thinking next summer might see a lot of these moving around, since they’ve multiplied like rabbits and are ready for dividing, but it’s not something I want to tackle this fall.

colchicum 'lilac wonder' in lawn

Colchicum ‘Lilac Wonder’ growing happily in the (now mowed) meadow.

You might be wondering why I’m even talking about moving flowering bulbs in the fall.  According to what I’ve read and heard (and done) colchicums are ok to move while in bloom.  It’s probably better to wait till the foliage dies in the summer and the bulbs are dormant, but I’m more of a do it while you remember kind of guy, and it’s much easier (and more fun) to move them while in bloom.  You can’t always be a slave to your plants you know, and every now and then they have to just suck it up and deal with things at a less than perfect time.

tranplanting colchicum in bloom

This unknown clump of colchicums which I call “not the giant” comes from a single stray bulb left behind from the last digging. It’s in full bloom and the roots have just begun to sprout from the base of the corm…. even in soil so dry I could have used a dust mask while digging.

Obviously you want to take a little care with the roots while planting, but to be honest I was more concerned about snapping off the blooms.  Instant gardening is what I call this, and the bulbs were planted individually right under the turf without any soil prep.

naturalized colchicum in lawn

Two days later the blooms look as fresh as the day I dug them. After being planted into more bone dry soil… and not even watered while transplanting… this will be a true test of how well colchicum handle autumn transplanting. We’ll revisit next fall!

Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening is a truly addicted colchicum lover (I’m just a dabbler), and her recent post on how colchicums know when to bloom asks a lot of the same questions I have.  They’re growing in soil so hard and dry I don’t even know how the roots penetrate the soil, yet they do, and cyclamen perform a similar trick.  Somehow these bulbs seem to have an odd internal clock that just goes off one day and they start growing.  Maybe it’s better I just ignore this heavy thinking and stick to enjoying the blooms, so here’s one last flower to end the post.  Not hardy, it’s one of those odd things that find their way into your online cart and then surprise you when you’ve forgotten all about that weak moment with a gift certificate.

bessera elegans flower

A fascinating flower shape, bessera elegans also comes in a rare deep purple. Mine are just blooming and I love it. Keep in mind though that the foliage is a floppy mess of green. Imagine thin dark green daffodil leaves so spineless they can’t lift themselves up off the ground and you have an accurate picture.

So fall flowers are off to a strong start.  I wish I had an autumn snowdrop to go with them, but I fear I’ve killed off my one bulb.  Obviously I don’t want to talk about it :/


26 comments on “Why wait for spring?

  1. Thank you for the link love. There’s one thing you didn’t mention about planting colchicums in the lawn. You have to mow around the leaves until they die down, which can be a good ways into the lawn mowing season when it finally happens. Those ones you just moved into the lawn, you won’t be able to mow between them. It’s going to look pretty messy until they die back. I do understand this does not deter you, but figured I’d better mention it for the sake of your readers, who may not comprehend what colchicum foliage in one’s lawn looks like as it’s going dormant.

    • bittster says:

      That’s a good point to remember. They do put up quite a hefty flush of foliage that might bother people. I won’t cut that part of the lawn until July the earliest so it won’t be a problem for me.
      Hmmmm, maybe if I plant a few more in other parts of the yard there will be even less grass to mow 🙂

  2. Pauline says:

    Colchicums are flowering now over here, I have 2 groups, one removed from the first ones. This second group always flowers at least a week later than the original group, they were moved about 10 yrs ago so I would have thought that they would have sorted themselves out by now!
    Yours are beautiful and I think they will look so lovely in your meadow with grass around them to help hold them up.

    • bittster says:

      That is really odd how ‘off’ the bloom times are! I’m at risk of overdoing it with these plants, and putting them in the meadow might be a good solution. The grass will also look nicer than the dry twigs and straw which surround them now.

  3. Christina says:

    I find Colchicums a bit strange, almost anything that flowers without its foliage is a bit odd, looks naked somehow. But I do like them with supporting grass. I suppose you also have to be very careful not to mow just as the flower stems are growing, how will you know when that will be? But I would like some autumn bulbs so I wouldn’t say that I won’t grow any.

    • bittster says:

      They are a nice surprise just as everything seems to have reached its limit as far as summer and drought go. But their freshness almost looks out of place when everything else is dying off, so I can understand why they seem odd.
      The grass is cut near the end of summer and is usually short just in time for the colchicums. Fortunately they always bloom around the same general date, so it’s not hard to plan for.

  4. Cathy says:

    I always think Colchicums are confused crocuses and shouldn’t be out at this time of year, although it sounds as if my dry ground would suit them too.

    • bittster says:

      I bet they would love your garden, but I agree they seem to be on the wrong timetable! I need to match them with other fall bloomers, they need better company than the dust bowl they’re in now 🙂

  5. Chloris says:

    You have a great selection of colchicums, I love them and I have no problems with them flowering nude in Autumn, it shows off the flowers so well. But I am always baffled as to what to do about them in the Spring because their foliage is so huge. It spoils the look of my other plants. In grass you have the problem of not being able to mow.
    I love Lilac Wonder, I haven’ t got that one.
    I think it is a good idea to move them now, rather than when they are dormant because you can see what you are doing and there is less chance of slicing into them.
    A lovely Bessera, I had one last year but it didn’ t survive. I hope you have better luck keeping yours.

    • bittster says:

      I’m really not all that sure what to do with the bessera, if it survives into next season it will be entirely the result of dumb luck!
      It really is so much nicer to move them in bloom, much more satisfying than dropping plain old dormant bulbs into holes and hoping for the best.
      The spring greenery is something of a problem. I think it’s actually on the attractive side when fresh, but for a few weeks as it dries up it does tend to be unsightly…. and does leave quite a gap. I think I will be able to ignore it in the meadow. By the time it yellows the grass will be high enough to hide it, and when bloom time approaches the grass will again be respectably short. I’m lucky to have a nice out of the way corner to do this in 🙂

  6. pbmgarden says:

    Enjoyed your cyclamen/colchicum tour and advice. My soil conditions in my meditation circle (hard and dry in some places) might work well for these too. Other times it gets standing water for a few hours. Think it might work for these bulbs?

    • bittster says:

      The standing water might not be to their liking. Hard and dry is not a big deal, but everything I read calls for well drained soil…. not that mine is, but it doesn’t have standing water at any time.
      Maybe there’s a spot which is raised just enough?

  7. I do love the surprise of those colchicums. I know they are there but when they show up it seems to be all at once and while I was sleeping. I think I need a few more.

    • bittster says:

      They came on me unexpected this year. One day they were just cracking through the surface, the next they were bursting open! Everything else seems in a slow decline, it’s nice to have these growing so eagerly 🙂

  8. Kathryn says:

    One more thing for my 2015 To Do list – fall-flowering bulbs! They look great.

  9. I have a lot of “not the Giant” myself. I think I got mine as ‘Autumn Herald’ but I’ve seen other pictures of ‘Autumn Herald’. I also got some as ‘TBD’ from David Burdick, so a lot folks are confused about this one. My ‘Harlequin’ had a lot more pink in it. I grew it and lost it at the old house. Mental note to get it again and add more grit. Maybe yours will pink up as the season progresses? Or maybe you have a new variety on your hands?

    • bittster says:

      The harlequin is also from David, so I’m sure it’s correct. It will be interesting to see what it does next year, I’m guessing there was something that happened during the year to keep it pale….. even though I would love to find something new and different!
      “Not the Giant” was bought as a single bulb years ago and has moved a few times and multiplied mightily. I may be a snob about some plants, but this one pleases me just as much as any of the other named ones 🙂

  10. I always forget about fall bulbs but should probably add a few just for the joy of shocking myself when they grow next year. Love that red bessera despite its underachieving foliage.

    • bittster says:

      Now that’s funny, I was just on your blog a few minutes ago reading about the straw covering your bed expansion and your healthy monarchs!
      Just remember colchicums are poisonous (I guess plenty of plants are), I wouldn’t want one of your dogs taking a bite and having tummy issues.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Annette says:

    I envy you a little for this splendour, Frank, especially as my own cyclamen are yet again quite reluctant…don’t know why…and you say it has been so dry. They do not really fancy that either so it must be your green fingers!

    • bittster says:

      I wish it were the green fingers, so much of what I plant barely tolerates me and dies a slow death 🙂
      My soil seems to be well liked by bulbs of all sorts…. perennials, shrubs, and trees are all a different story. -with the possible exception of ornamental grasses, they also do well (as do the grassy weeds)
      My cyclamen have never complained about a little fertilizer and compost, they don’t mind dry but I guess they do like to have a nice meal now and then.

  12. So lovely! I have neither Cyclamen nor Colchicums. I feel like I am missing out on all the fun.

  13. Apologies – just a month behind lol. Totally agree with your stand on winter, it is just not for me. But hey just think about all the Snowdrops you will see in the late winter early spring 🙂 Love Colchicums but just like with Snowdrops I can never have enough of them lol. I divided, gave away and moved around my Colchicums this past summer before they sent blooms out and they did great. I like the idea of them in the lawn – something to remember later on when I get a bigger yard… My Snowdrops are just now coming up so hopefully yours are now as well and it actually did not die on you 🙂 Your Cyclamen are wonderful. I hope mine start seeding around in my garden like so many say they do.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I’m always running around this time of year trying to catch up. I actually almost get there now and then since the kids can entertain themselves here and there, and that’s whats been killing my time management for the past few years
      I am looking forward to the snowdrops, probably more so than I should be, but the autumn one is almost surely a goner. Out of 7 bulbs in the pot I’m almost positive it was the one that died…. those are just my odds you know?
      My latest colchicum dream is a yellow cutleaf sumac underplanted with a big pool of colchicums…. we’ll see if it ever happens, if it does it will likely take up almost all of my meadow!
      Now if I also had a bigger yard 🙂

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