Nigel Colborn: Plant bulbs now for swathes of colour

  • As autumn approaches now is the time to start thinking about bulbs
  • You can plant daffodils, tulips and most other spring bulbs from now
  • Plant colchicums, nerines, sternbergia as soon as you can to flower in Autumn

Autumn is coming so we need to think about bulbs. Garden centres are stocking up and early buying ensures the best possible choice. But there’s no need to rush. You can plant daffodils, tulips and most other spring bulbs from now to November. 

Autumn-flowering bulbs are another matter. When buying these you have very little time before they flower. So plant colchicums, nerines, sternbergia and so on, as soon as you can. Colchicums are Britain’s bestloved autumn bulbs. 

Their crocus-shaped blooms appear from late August and continue into October. If you notice wan little flowers sprouting on the large dry bulbs for sale, don’t be put off — they’re still worth buying. 

Bright beauties: Lavender-pink meadow saffron flowers in September (file image)

Bright beauties: Lavender-pink meadow saffron flowers in September (file image)

A colchicum bulb produces clusters of naked flowers even if simply plonked dry onto a windowsill, but will look much prettier potted up or planted in the garden. Flowers will appear year on year. 

In the wild there are more than 40 species. About 20 easy-togrow varieties are readily available for gardens. Most flower in lilac-mauve, pink or white. But all contain colchicine and are toxic if eaten. 

NAKED CHARM 

Big showy species, Colchicum speciosum has white-throated, pinkish purple flowers. There’s a pure white, C. speciosum Album, and a double, Waterlily. These are pipped in size by The Giant, whose goblet-shaped flowers can be 20cm high. Native meadow saffron, Colchicum autumnale is smaller and more slender but just as pretty. 

Though rare in the wild, in Britain it’s a popular garden plant with lavender-pink flowers in September. This one is easy to naturalise in rough grass or to line a drive or pathway. Bulky leaves and stems will shoot up next spring, some more than 30cm high and, though handsome when fresh, become scruffy before dying down in summer. 

Don’t cut them off; to build up flowers for next year, Bright beauties: Lavender-pink meadow saffron flowers in September they must be allowed to wither. True crocuses that flower in autumn are more discreet, with narrow, grassy leaves. 

The prettiest, C. speciosus, has naked purple-blue flowers that open in sun to show vivid orange stigmas. Plant in a sunny spot in free-draining soil or in grass. There’s also a November blooming crocus, C. ochroleucus, to brighten the dullest of winter months. 

BIGGER BLOOMS

For larger flowers with that magical ‘spring-in-autumn’ effect, try South African nerines. The hardiest, Nerine bowdenii carries clusters of sugar pink flowers on long stems, while nerine Zeal Giant is large, with curled pink petals. 

It’s a superb cut flower. But when growing outside, that shouty pink will cheer up October foliage. Nerines can be sold as dry bulbs or as growing pot plants. Plant in a sunny corner immediately. They prefer light soils with fast drainage and can be left untouched for several years. 

Not all nerines are hardy — check before you buy. And they are happiest growing just below the surface so the bulbs can mature in late summer heat. You might also try Amaryllis belladonna. Thick, naked stems carry big, floppy blooms in startling pink and white — bound to cheer up even the dirtiest October day 



Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *