Vermont Garden Journal: Flowering Bulbs
Friday, September 13, 2013 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. I'm Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. When I say flowering bulbs, most people think of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring bloomers. But if you look closely around some yards in fall you'll notice a whole other group of bulbs flowering now. These are the autumn flowering bulbs and I think they deserve more attention. Colchicum and autumn crocus bulbs are planted now to bloom in fall. They provide a splash of color to perennial gardens often with only asters, sedum and goldenrod in bloom. Their bright colors make you feel like its spring all over again. Let's look at some of these fall beauties.
The best known fall flowering bulbs is the autumn crocus. Probably the most famous is the saffron crocus or Crocus sativus. The stigmas of the flower are harvested to yield this exotic, pricy spice. It takes 150 flowers to yield just one gram of saffron. Unfortunately, saffron crocus are marginally hardy in Vermont, so there goes my dream of getting rich as a crocus farmer. But, you can grow Crocus speciosa that flowers in fall and is hardy. Some varieties to try 'Alba', which is white, 'Cassiope' which is blue with a yellow throat, and 'Conquerer', which is violet.
The most showy of the fall bulbs is colchicum. These flowers emerge in early fall without the foliage and have large, white, pink, or violet colored blooms. Some, such as 'Waterlily', are double petaled increasing the attraction. In spring, the leaves emerge to rejuvenate the bulb. It's hardy to zone 5 so will need some protection in colder areas.
Plant these bulbs among shrubs and perennial flowers now in well-drained soil. Space autumn flowering crocus 3 inches apart and colchicums 10 inches apart. Protect them in winter with a layer of bark mulch.
And now for this week's tip, it's time to fertilize your lawn with an organic, phosphate-free plant food. Consider top dressing with compost and over seeding with more grass seed to create a thick, lush lawn for spring.
Next week on The Vermont Garden Journal I'll be talking about voles and moles. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.