Plants - Flower Bulbs

Eight fall-blooming bulbs

Stephen Westcott-Gratton

From Colchicums to Crocus, plant these colourful beauties for a surprising autumn show

Autumn crocuses
It’s hard to find a garden in Canada that doesn’t usher in the growing season without the multicoloured blooms of spring crocuses: Nevertheless, there are several lesser-known types that flower in fall, creating carpets of lilac, violet-blue and white flowers that glow and shimmer in autumn’s gentle sunlight. Corms should be planted as soon as they’re available in late summer or early fall; they’ll begin to bloom almost immediately.

Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus): 8 cm tall, Zone 5. Preferring average, well-drained soil in a full sun location, this is the source of saffron, the world’s most expensive spice (it takes more than 4,000 stigmas and styles to yield 25 grams). Producing lightly fragrant lilac flowers with purple venation, unlike most crocuses, its blooms don’t close at night or on overcast days.

Large Autumn Crocus (Crocus speciosus):
15 cm tall, Zone 3. Producing small flowers the first year, corms take two years to produce full-sized,lavender-blue blooms. Tending to flop, they should be planted in a sunny area that’s protected from strong winds and driving rains. Inexpensive, buy at least 100 corms at a time and let them naturalize. RHS AGM, 1993

'Albus' Bieberstein's Crocus (Crocus speciosus ‘Albus’):
15 cm tall,  Zone 3. Large, pure white blooms with bright orange stigmas light up the autumn landscape. ‘Albus’ looks magnificent when planted at the base of shrubs or naturalized in grass. Crocus speciosus and its cultivars produce leaves in spring and flowers in fall, so springtime foliage must be left in place to mature (like daffodils). RHS AGM, 1994

'Conqueror' Large Autumn Crocus (Crocus speciosus ‘Conqueror’):  15 cm tall, Zone 3. ‘Conqueror’ produces large, sky blue flowers that seem to increase in size each year. To prevent blooms from toppling, plant autumn crocuses amid low-growing perennials whose leaves will support the flower stems, such as Geranium ×cantabrigiense cvs. or the fall
foliage of grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum cvs.).

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