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Connecticut Garden Journal: Colorful fall bulbs are about to have their moment

Colchicum autumnale, commonly called autumn crocus or meadow saffron, is a perennial that typically blooms in early autumn. Foliage appears in spring, gradually yellows and dies by early summer when the plant goes dormant. Naked flower stems rise from the ground in late summer to early autumn, each stem bearing a star-shaped, lavender-pink to lilac-pink flower. Autumn flowers have no foliage, hence the plant has additional common name of naked ladies.
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Colchicum autumnale, commonly called autumn crocus or meadow saffron, is a perennial that typically blooms in early autumn.

When I think of flowering bulbs I usually think of spring bloomers such as tulips and daffodils. But I'm reminded of another group of fall flowering bulbs that add a blast color to the late summer garden.

Let's start with fall flowering crocus and colchicum. These two bulbs look similar to the spring flowering versions, but bloom now. Fall crocus is also known as saffron crocus. The orange stigmas in the flowers are edible. You can see why saffron is so expensive when you realize how many crocus blooms you need to get this spice. Colchicum is a bright pink flowering, autumn bulb that is large. 'Waterlily' is a double petaled selection that really puts on a show.

Another great fall bulb is the crocosmia. 'Lucifer' is the most common variety with its bright red colored blooms. But there are yellow colored selections as well. Crocosmia are in the same family as freesia and gladiolus so the leaves will look familiar. The flower forms later than glads and the small, brightly colored blooms flower on arching, long stems. It looks great mixed with other fall blooming perennials.

Finally, lycoris or naked ladies is an unusual fall bloomer. It grows foliage in late spring then dies back in summer. By fall, single stems emerge from the soil with bright pink, trumpet-shaped blooms. It's also called magic lily for that reason.

Plant these bulbs in spring. All are hardy to zone 5 and come back reliably when grown in full sun on well-drained soil. Even deer don't bother them.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.