I received in the mail this week a great little reminder that this is the time to plant fall-flowering bulbs. The reminder was in the form of a cute little catalog from Harvesting History. The catalog is small enough to not be overwhelming, and the pictures are large enough to let you know what the flowers really look like.
The first couple of pages are given over to fall flowering bulbs, and the list includes several colchicums such as the waterlily crocus and white autumn crocus, fall blooming Bella Donna lilies, and hardy cyclamen. These are all hardy to zone 9, which makes them good choices for Southern gardens. The catalog also includes saffron crocus, another fall flower, which I have been growing in my zone 7b garden for many years.
For me, saffron crocus reliably re-blooms year after year. It also multiplies enough that I have been able to share “extras” with friends. The saffron flowers appear around Halloween, when other plants are shutting down and turning into masses of dead foliage. The big lavender-colored flowers are a welcome sight!
These flowers are also the source of the saffron used in cooking, that most of us can’t afford to buy at the store.
The parts used in cooking are the stigmas, the three, bright red, thread-like bits that are the female parts inside each flower. To harvest, pick the stigmas by hand and dry them on a paper towel for a few days before storing.
I have, in the past, bought and planted bulbs (spring-flowering Angelique tulips – that were both beautiful and fragrant) that should work in zone 7 gardens, but my yard is enough “on the edge” that these died out over time. For my Southern garden, bulbs need to work in zone 8 or higher.
If you decide to add some fall-flowering bulbs to your garden this year, you can plant them now, and they should bloom within a month or two.