Naked Ladies in my Garden

By Lois Scott, Master Gardener

Although this may sound shocking to some and possibly enticing to others, the Naked Ladies in my garden are a welcome arrival at this time of year.  It is not so much that they are truly naked, they are just minus their leaves.  Naked Ladies, Autumn Crocus and Meadow Saffron are all common names for a bulb-like corm called Colchicum autumnale that produces leaves in the spring and flowers in the fall.  Over the summer the plant appears dormant but by late August or early September it starts pushing up beautiful mauve flowers with 6 showy stamens, all atop white stems.  Colchicum autumnale likes organically rich, well-drained soil and sun to part shade conditions. https://onrockgarden.com/index.php/plant-of-the-month?view=article&id=92:colchicum-autumnale&catid=22

This is a sentimental plant for me as years ago I dug up the corms from my grandparents’ garden.  I remember they were still a mass of blooms at Thanksgiving.  But as much as they mean to me, they can be a garden design challenge.  The leaves that are produced in spring grow a good 25-30 cm and then go through a bit of a collapse as they die off.  At that point you are left with a hole.  The flowers grow to be about 15-20 cm tall and could easily be overwhelmed by larger plants around them.  I have my most favourite site for them at the base of a Witchhazel shrub which is close to a garden bed edge. There are a few rocks surrounding the area where the plants are sited and otherwise, I leave the area bare.  The photo I have included is a previous arrangement but I found the leaves in spring overwhelmed the Heuchera, so the heuchera have been moved out a bit.  The other photo shows the leaves in spring.

Colchicum autumnale in fall

You may find corms for sale in the fall or perhaps you know someone who wants to divide up their clump.  They can easily be divided every few years and speaking for myself, I am happy to share.  The ladies in my garden are trouble free and never disappoint.

Colchicum autumnale in spring

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