Very soon a spectacular fall flowerer with many names will be available in garden centres - today it's usually called Autumn Crocus after its flowering time and the shape of its large, goblet-shaped flowers in purple-pink, mauve or white.
Old-time names include: Naked Ladies and Naked Boys because the flowers usually emerge before the leaves. Sometimes it's called Wonder Bulb since it's capable of flowering when bare bulbs are left on a windowsill.
Botanically it's called Colchicum.
Because it's beautiful, easy to grow, tolerant of adversity and adaptable to most variations of sun and shade, it's a wonderful asset for any garden with average soil. This is one of the plants that survives for years in very old, untended gardens.
Though Colchicum bulbs aren't cheap, they're great value because they're long-flowering and increase fast into large mats without adventuring into places where they're not wanted.
The two extreme situations that can kill them are dry, dense shade and swampy or flooded conditions.
Their ideal situation is a few hours of sun daily and well-drained soil that doesn't dry out severely.
The time when water is really needed is whenever leaves are showing. Luckily this is usually when our climate supplies lots.
During August, gardeners who want Autumn Crocus for their garden will need to move fast to acquire them, because once spring bulbs arrive the autumn bulbs either sell out or vanish from stock.
It's also important to plant them before leaves begin to grow - and they should never be moved while leaves are visible.
I tried this once as an experiment, and it took several years for flowers to reappear.
All colchicum are very hardy in this climate. They accept acid or alkaline soil, but can have trouble in extremely nutritious soil.
Bonemeal is good nourishment for them.
Easily available colchicum include some Colchicum speciosum hybrids such as The Giant, which is very tall, mauve and white-throated, and Water Lily, a double pink which is inclined to flop. Another popular bulb is Colchicum autumnale, a smaller, later-blooming white version which also has white stems. Earlier blooms lean over and become a white mat surrounding the later, upright flowers.
Garden club plant sales are a good place for gardeners seeking unusual Colchicum bulbs.
These include the dwarf Colchicum agrippinum, which has mauve chequered flowers and deep green pointy leaves. Colchicum speciosum has a huge-flowered mauve form but also a rarer (incredibly beautiful) white one.
Colchicum cilicium is fragrant (if you can bend down that far). This is said to come true from seed (but seedlings take up to five years to flower).
One of the most prolific bloomers is Lilac Wonder, an assertive pink.
Autumn Queen can be found in catalogues and is described as a deep purple.
Seed can be found on the soil at the base of the leaves in spring, but collecting it needs care and latex gloves. Colchicum is very poisonous.
Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.