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Crocus Speciosus

2-Flower-held-by-long-grass-199x300There’s something wonderful about autumn-flowering bulbs. They feel, somehow, like a bit of a cheat, or an extra treat from the usual spring display of daffodils and tulips. I especially love them for being so fresh and virginal at a time when many other plants have gone to seed, or flopped like drunks staggering out of a party.

A particular favourite of mine is an autumn-flowering crocus, Crocus speciosus,  which shoots slender fluted flower buds up from bare soil in October and into November. They start as an ashen, smoky grey-blue, which develops into a glistening pale lilac colour as they open. They’re so pure and innocent-looking, making a wonderful contrast to the muddy, muddled ochres and reds of fallen leaves.

I prefer to plant them in a sheltered spot either in grass or in amongst other low-growing plants such as heucheras. Foliage around the flowers is helpful to help hold the flowers up: if the plant has one fault it’s that the flowers are so delicate and fine that they’re liable to flop over and can be massacred by strong winds and heavy rain.

3-Flowers-flop-if-the-grass-is-too-short-306x300Tiny, narrow leaves, pretty much identical to those of spring crocus appear after the flowers have faded and die away tidily in late spring: – a bit of a contrast to the fleshy tufts of leaves produced by the better known “autumn crocus”(or meadow saffron) – Colchicum.

Colchiums aren’t crocus at all, and are much bigger. Some gardeners moan about their big leaves cluttering up the borders in spring, but I rather like them. They look almost like a houseplant; or an out-of-season hosta. Colchicums are ideal plants for novice gardeners as they’ll flower pretty much whatever you do to them – you can even leave the bulbs on the windowsill and watch them bloom a few weeks later.

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