Planting colchicums

Jane McGary
Sat, 07 Aug 2010 09:35:10 PDT
Roland wrote,
For sure plant your Colchicums first
>Yesterday is always the best day for planting them
>Two easy tricks
>Peel of the skin just before planting till you see the but
>marque every bulb with a sate pin and If one doesn't come up next year
>dig a hole on that spot till you see the leaves and fold them strait
>so they get light and close the hole as far as possible
>at least normally you have flowers next year

If I get a colchicum that has started to flower before planting, I 
just remove the flower bud before planting it in the normal position. 
I think it's better to lose the first year's flowering, which will 
not be normal in any case once it has initiated while out of the 
soil, and get the bulb settled without its having to spend the energy 
to bloom. Once you're used to colchicums, it's not difficult to 
situate the bulb upright -- except for a few small species such as C. 
boissieri and C. minutum that produce horizontal, wormlike corms, 
which can just be put in the ground in any position and they will 
figure it out.

Incidentally I recommend wearing disposable latex gloves if you're 
handling a lot of colchicum plant material, whether leaves or corms 
and roots. I don't know whether the toxin can be absorbed through the 
skin, but better safe than sorry. These gloves are also good to wear 
if you're handling a lot of hellebore material, especially when 
cleaning seeds -- you can get quite a dermatitis from hellebore. Some 
people also react to Narcissus but I haven't found it a problem.

Just this morning I lifted the last of the bulbs that were dormant. A 
few are flowering now, such as Allium sanbornii and Brodiaea 
californica. The Brodiaea could be lifted anyway, as in this group 
(which also include Dichelostemma and Triteleia and a few other 
genera) the stem usually is detached from the bulb, or almost so, 
when the flowers open on their long stems. Apparently the moisture 
and nutrients in the stem itself are enough to nourish flowering, 
seed set, and ripening. You can throw a stem of Dichelostemma 
ida-maia out into the field and it will get on with its job quite 
well. No doubt that is why I have rather too many of them, but they 
will be a nice addition to the new garden and are beloved by hummingbirds.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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