Plant of the week
Crocus speciosus (Autumn crocus or Naked Ladies)
Why you should plant it
If you buy and plant this beauty right now, you will have dazzling blooms in a couple of weeks. No autumn garden should be without a patch of them. The striking blossoms come up without foliage (thus the “naked ladies” label), followed by little grass-like leaves. They are outrageously brilliant through late September into November. Anyone nervous about gardening should plant this one, as it can’t fail.
There is also Colchicums, which are likewise called autumn crocus, but they are a different (just-as-gorgeous) species and a lot more expensive; they flower earlier and have more shrubby foliage.
Where to plant it
Crocus speciosus, a Zone 4 plant, should be planted in groups of five or more in about 10 centimetres of soil in a patch that gets afternoon sun. Put them somewhere obvious so you can take in and enjoy the colours, which range from white ( C. s ‘Albus’) to the defiant blue of C. speciosum to the silky almost-purple of C. s ‘Conqueror.’ Indoors, place them in a saucer with some water and, after they bloom, replant them outside for the future, sticking them in containers that you can move about, running them along a sidewalk to welcome guests or tucking them into the grass or beside trees (but not in deep shade).
What it offers
It’s impossible not to fall in love with this small miracle, a flash of neon colour quite unlike anything else at this time of year. Autumn crocuses are so adaptable and refreshing that you’ll want to collect lots of them. Be warned, though: Once they disappear, you may forget where you planted them. Next spring, however, a baffling grass-like foliage will pop up to remind you of their coming charm later in the year.
Source and cost
Get autumn crocuses through www.gardenimport.com (10 for $6.95) and www.botanus.com (10 for $6.50).
Visit www.marjorieharris.com for more gardening and plant information.