Autumn flowering bulbs

Autumn carpets

Colchicum (naked ladies)

Colchicum (naked ladies)

A bit of freshness in autumn is always a welcome thing, but particularly close to the ground, when the garden stars are tall, wafty perennials or seed-heads. A colchicum (or ‘Naked lady’ as they are called, due to the fact that the flowers appear on bare stems after the leaves are long gone) is a truly wondrous thing in this regard, particularly if it is planted generously. Corms can be planted in August or September, and a specialist like Avon Bulbs is preferable, as they are pretty expensive. The white C. speciosum ‘Album’ is the winner, with its absolutely exquisite perfect snowy petals, but C. agrippinum comes a close second, with slightly tapered petals with a pink, chequer-board pattern - autumn’s answer to Fritillaria meleagris.

colchicum 2.jpg

All colchicum need good, moisture retentive soil, and some afternoon sun if they are to thrive. You can absolutely naturalise them in your lawn, but you’ll have to hold off on the mowing until the leaves, which appear in spring, are totally gone in June. This is a cormous perennial, belonging to the lily family, and not actually a crocus at all, even though its common name is ‘Autumn crocus’. Don’t confuse it with your second, equally good option, the ‘Autumn flowering crocus’. Go straight for Crocus speciosus which will give you glorious violet flowers with fiery centres, and is a rather more economical option if you’re wanting carpets - and let’s face it, who doesn’t?