Gloriosa ‘Tomas De Bruyne’ has a great name for a plant. Flemish, or northern France. A touch of class. And judging by the image taken on the 26th August it looks sensational. Of course it was an impulse buy, an addition to a more considered order. And I gave it the prime spot in a huge terracotta pot on a south facing wall. When it arrived it was an untidy cigar shape and size, wrapped up in tasteful brown paper. But this, dear reader, was the solitary bloom. I’d been fascinated by the thin leaf that eventually developed a wire-like tentacle to grasp the trellis. And, by gosh, it gets the full treatment in the publicity campaign. It was named after an international floral designer by its Dutch breeder, Van Ruiten. Gloriosa is a form of Colchicaceae, a tender South African lily and I think that’s the problem with my cultivation. Its natural home is a frost free greenhouse and, despite the warmest outdoor position I can offer, it seems not to have been hot enough. And it arrived a little late to get started properly. It has been stored and insulated for the winter and in the new year I’ll get it started early because that first and only bloom was truly breathtaking. A challenge.
Colchicums lighten the garden as we move into winter. I have quite a collection. These are not in any order because I’m no authority but ‘Purpureum’, ‘Byzantium’, ‘Autumnale’ and ‘Dick Trotter’ are shown flowering today. They were photographed in pots but are now planted in the borders and mixed in with daffodils, snowdrops and spring flowering crocus. Friends dropping a parcel off this afternoon commented on the size of the front garden now the central bed is missing but had most to say about the autumn crocus. When flowers are so flamboyant at this time of year their membership of the lily family is clear to see.
They are called ‘naked ladies’ on account of their sudden appearance in autumn, flowers and no leaves. Later in winter and at the beginning of Spring the leaves appear, to die back and recharge the bulbs for the next glowering period. They appear in the garden just as cyclamen hederifolium are on the decline. ‘The Giant’ oozers out of the bulb, a splurge of colour in a rapidly darkening landscape.
Autumn crocus varieties have come on a lot from the days when anaemic shoots toppled over in a mess in the border and my wife complained they made her feel queasy. In fact they are not crocus but from the lily family. Colchicum autumnale ‘Alboplenum’ is a stunner with huge double white, rather scruffy blooms appearing at a time when other plants are receding.