Colchicum will look spectacular for several weeks – if they’re planted in the right place. Thread them between and around shrubs and trees in good, well-drained soil and with plenty of light. Their huge violet, rose, pink, mauve, white and purple flowers will stand upright, unless there is very heavy rain. But once the water drains away from the goblet-like flowerheads, they right themselves and will look showy right through to November. One of the best is Colchicum speciosum ‘Album’, a lovely free-flowering white variety with 6in (15cm) flowers.
CRINUM x POWELLII
One of the most spectacular autumn flowering bulbs is the Cape lily, whose pink funnel-shaped scented flowers keep going through September and often into October. It flowers at about 3ft (1.5m) and there is a white variety ‘Album’. It’s moderately hardy but will be damaged at extremely low temperatures, so grow in a sunny, sheltered spot or in a pot which you can protect if you live in a very cold area.
Will flower from September through October with a succession of hooded tubular white drooping blooms, each with a striking maroon throat, on a 3ft (1m) spike. You’ll sometimes find it under the old name of G. callianthus. Plant the corms in May or June (or buy them in flower in autumn) in a well-drained sunny spot. Lift the corms before frosts become fierce.
The Kaffir lily is much hardier than we used to think. It grows from rhizomes rather than true bulbs and some varieties will flower through October to the end of November, keeping the colour coming. Grow in a sunny spot in soil that doesn’t dry out too much. They’re South African plants with sword-like leaves and look spectacular in drifts. For impact try the copper-red Hesperantha coccinea ‘Major’ or the soft pink ‘Fenland Daybreak’.
Although crocus is usually associated with spring, its autumn cousin, Crocus speciosus is a lovely sight on a sunny autumn day. Go for any of the long-flowering C. speciosus varieties and even the winter-flowering
C. laevigatus ‘Fontenayi’ (November through to January). ‘Albus’ is also later blooming, often at the end of October.
It’s hard to believe that a plant so vibrant-looking as Nerine bowdenii, is at its best in November. There are several varieties with varying levels of hardiness but the species is hard to beat with its head of around seven to 10 spidery pink flowers, It’s hardy enough to leave in the ground, too. Plant in late summer.