Naked ladies provide an autumn eye-opener

Glorious in their nudity - colchicum bring a touch of spring to the autumn.
Glorious in their nudity - colchicum bring a touch of spring to the autumn.

SOUTHSEA GREEN: With Irene Strange

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Ihave on several occasions mentioned that spring flowering bulbs are not as popular as they used to be and many garden centres have limited their stocks simply because we aren’t buying them.

This is a great pity and we may not see so many autumn flowering bulbs and corms because gardeners either don’t see them or they don’t visit a garden centre.

It won’t be long before the autumn flowering bulbs and corms arrive so be sure to keep an eye out because they will be snapped up as there won’t be so many in stock.

Let’s have a quick look at bulbs and corms which will provide a carpet of colour when we all need cheering up this autumn.

Nerines are best known but have you ever seen colchicum?

The single pink flowers are five times as large as a crocus and the same shape as a crocus. They are often called naked ladies because there are no leaves on the plant when it comes into flower.

The double forms look like small water lily blooms. If there are children in your life, buy one for each child and put it into an egg cup with no water and leave it on their bedroom windowsill.

In the autumn, the phone will ring and a little voice will say: ‘Grandma/grandad, the bulb you put in an egg cup has a flower like a water lily.’ This will make your day!

They can go straight into the garden in a sunny spot.

If you love crocus, have a go at planting a group so that the corms are two inches deep and each corm three inches from the next in a circle. They normally come in cellophane packs of five with a picture of the flower on the front.

If you see any sternbergia, it will be a miracle. The bulbs are a bit smaller than tulip bulbs, but the flower is already in the bulb. When it emerges in the autumn the blooms look like large yellow crocus with leaves very similar to daffodils.

In fact sternbergia is closely related to daffodils, quite unique and rarely seen in gardens.

Other autumn gems are flowering hardy cyclamen. These are tubers and are normally about half-an-inch thick.

Fork over the soil to a depth of two or three inches and press the tuber firmly into the surface so the top of the tuber is level with the soil. Water well.

The base is round and the top has little bits of brown stems from last year’s growth. These produce tiny flowers for about six to eight weeks during the autumn followed by beautiful marbled leaves, great in partial shade and wonderful if you like a natural appearance in your garden.


It has been really dry recently and the weather has been humid. So I hope you sprayed your potatoes and tomatoes with Bordeaux mixture to prevent blight.