A bucketful OF COLOUR
Woman's Weekly Living Series|October 2021
For sheer ‘wow’ factor in an autumn display, it’s hard to beat the silvery lilac flowers of Colchicum, the autumn crocus
NICOLA STOCKEN

Colchichum emerge from summer dormancy as clusters of gleaming, silvered pink or white flowers, appearing ahead of their leaves, hence the common name ‘Naked Ladies’. Few bulbs are as irrepressible — autumn crocuses flower regardless of whether they are planted or not, so can be bought late in the summer, provided they are immediately put into deep, moisture-retentive soil in a sunny spot. They should not be confused with autumn-flowering crocuses, a totally different flowering family.

The galvanised bucket should first be thoroughly washed with soapy water, and then drilled with drainage holes which are covered with a layer of gravel, to prevent the compost blocking the holes. Several months prior to creating this display, the bulbs (also called cormous perennials) of Colchicum ‘Waterlily’ and Colchicum speciosum were pre-planted in terracotta pots and, once the buds appeared, gently inched into prepared holes in the bucket. Within a week of warm weather, the crocuses flower profusely, standing 15cm high.

The bulbs are planted around Gentiana ‘The Caley’, an autumn gentian forming a ground-covering mat of softly spiky green leaves that reach out between the crocus stems. This is a marvellous gentian, bearing masses of large, blue trumpet-shaped flowers — new buds keep appearing throughout September and October.

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