Beautiful autumn bulbs
To add colour to the garden this fall, plant bulbs that bloom in the autumn. Unlike spring-flowering bulbs that need to settle in over the winter before blooming, fall bulbs are planted in late summer to early fall and flower later the same season. The best ones for our climate are Colchicum (commonly known as “naked ladies” or autumn crocus), Cyclamen and certain species of crocuses that are cousins to the more common spring-blooming crocus.
Fall crocuses look great planted in large drifts at the edge of a border, and the autumn crocus looks most natural planted under trees and shrubs. All of these fall-blooming bulbs make ideal container plants. They're just what you need to dress up an urn of fading summer flowers. Once they've stopped blooming, plant the potted bulbs in the garden for a blast of colour next fall.
Most fall blooming bulbs love sun, but some will tolerate partial shade; all of them grow best in well-drained, humus-rich soil. Here's a sampler for your fall garden.
Generally more delicate in appearance than spring crocuses, fall crocuses commonly bloom in pastel shades of violet, lilac and blue. One of the most attractive is the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus. The species harvested to make saffron seasoning, the saffron crocus features bright orange stigmata cupped by attractive, deep lilac-colour petals veined with violet. Crocus speciosus is another fall blooming crocus that's easy to grow, forming ever larger clumps each year. Hardier than the saffron crocus, the speciosus crocus blooms in shades of blue as well as snowy white. One of the hardiest and most vigorous of the fall crocuses is Crocus kotschyanus (also known as zonatus). Planted in large drifts, this fall crocus forms a carpet of lilac-lavender flowers.
Autumn crocus Colchicum
Not to be confused with the fall crocuses described above, autumn crocuses are also called “naked ladies” because they bloom without their leaves. Their goblet-shaped petals bloom in shades of pink ranging from magenta and rose to amethyst and violet. Some are also available in purest white. As beautiful as they are in fall, they can be awkward to deal with in the springtime when their long, strappy leaves appear. They're best naturalized under trees or clustered under shrubs such as rhododendrons, which help to hide their gawky foliage in the spring. Not all colchicums are hardy enough for the Canadian climate. Some of the best include ‘Autumn Queen,' ‘Water Lily' and ‘The Giant.'
Cyclamen Cyclamen hederifolium
A hardier variety than the florists' cyclamen commonly sold as a houseplant, Cyclamen hederifolium is an elegant fall-bloomer with flowers like tiny butterflies that bloom in rosy pink or white. Once the flowers die back, its beautiful mottled leaves fill out to create an attractive late fall groundcover. This fall bloomer loves shade in the summer and sunshine in the winter. Cyclamen also benefits from a mulch of leaves over the winter.