Crocus: The Ladies of Autumn

Published on August 22nd 2018
I love growing bulbs, they’re easy and so rewarding. In spring crocus add a splash of much-needed colour and guess what, they’re here to help us do exactly the same thing in autumn.
If you’ve ever parted with cash for saffron and wondered why it’s so expensive, try growing some at home. You’ll find the bulbs, Crocus sativus, in most garden centres or online from the end of July and they love to be buried deep in a hot spot. Once you see the little lilac flowers with contrasting orange stamens you’ll fall in love and forget about plucking them to spice up your dinner.
Crocus speciosus is the most widely grown true autumn-flowering crocus and is easier to grow than saffron. Again it likes a warm sunny spot, and you’ll get large numbers of silvery-lilac, lightly fragranced blooms appearing just as the leaves begin to fall. Choose ‘Conqueror’ for best effect.
Colchicums are not true crocuses, in fact they’re downright confusing as they’re not only called ‘autumn crocus’ (and aren’t a crocus) but also ‘meadow saffron’ (eat this saffron and you’ll end up in A&E as all parts are toxic). Piercing the earth just as everything else is looking to retreat back into it and easily grown at home they give large goblet-shaped flowers – even without soil. Choose single-flowered types such as Lilac Wonder and C. speciosum ‘Album’ for best effect or native C. autumnale for naturalising. The fact they flower well ahead of their leaves appearing gave rise to the moniker ‘naked ladies’ – some plants just can’t get enough of misleading names!

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