Autumn crocus may surprise you. They seem to bloom almost overnight, with no leaves in sight. You plant them, and then suddenly, there they are.
Having something blooming in the fall garden is wonderful, and to have it be such a showy flower really brightens my day.
I am speaking here of colchicum, which are commonly called autumn crocus or, less commonly, meadow saffron. The flowers look like a larger version of the crocus we see in the spring. They come in shades of pink, lavender, white and violet. Colchicum will thrive in sun or partial shade, and will naturalize in wooded areas if left undisturbed.
The unusual part of these plants is that they should be planted now, in late summer while the soil is still warm. Unless we have an early and unusually cold fall, they will bloom in late September or October. Then, next spring, broad, strappy leaves will appear. The colchicum will not bloom then, though, and the leaves will disappear in July. Do not cut or remove them, as they are needed to make food for next year's flowers.
Then, in early fall of next year, be prepared to be surprised again when just the flowers poke through the soil. It is a good idea to mark where you plant them or you might accidentally dig them up, unless your memory is better than mine.
Corms are available now at the Grange Co-op and other garden stores. Because colchicum are dormant for such a brief period in summer, they have a short availability season, so don't delay if you want this lovely plant in your yard. If you order from a catalog or online, request prompt shipping. Plant them right away, whatever your source.
Plant the corms in well drained soil, three inches deep and about six inches apart. They will divide and fill in the gaps to create a stunning display. Keep the soil reasonably moist to give them a good start. Native to western and central Europe, colchicum will usually survive Rogue Valley winters, as they are hardy to about zero degrees.
Although you may not get a full display the first year, leave them in the ground to form roots and divide. They will provide you with autumn beauty for many years to come.
Coming up: The Siskiyou Chapter of the American Rock Garden Society will hold its annual fall plant sale at Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery, 2115 Talent Ave., in Talent. The time is 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Gabriel Balint, Oregon State University Extension viticulturist and enologist, will teach Beginning Home Winemaking from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 17 and 21 at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. The class will take you through the complete process from harvest to bottle.
Balint will follow that up with a two-part class on Advanced Home Winemaking from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 24 and 28. The class will explore more deeply the chemistry and microbiology of wine-making. You must have completed the beginning class or its equivalent to take the advanced class.
The cost for either class is $50, and pre-registration and pre-payment are required. Call 541-776-7371 for details on either class.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.