What Season is This? The Bulbs Know
We have record-breaking heat and drought but maintain our optimistic hope for rain; however, even without our much-needed moisture, there is activity below ground. Summer flowers begin to droop and new flower buds fail to appear, but a few signs declare the arrival of fall. The light changes. No longer does the sun shine from directly above us but instead comes at an angle, giving us more shade. Summer dormant bulbs appear just above the soil, first as bulges, then as tips of green, and finally as a flowering plants. Lycoris radiata var. pumila, appeared more than a month ago and is now ripening seeds just as its larger, later relative, L. radiata is in full bloom. Between the peaks of these two red-flowered bulbs, we celebrate every flower on Rhodophiala bifida. We have one fertile bulb so finally can increase our collection from seeds. Starting from seed is always best, for although the plants are slow to grow to blooming size, we get variations in size and color of the flowers. Masses of colchicums bloom in the Colchicum Garden, producing flowers in various sizes, shapes and colors from white to shades of violet-pink. This is always an eagerly awaited sight and a sure sign that summer is about to end. Although the first autumn colchicum flower appears in late August, the last one won’t open until October. This is an amazing performance, for when the flowers open, there are no roots on the corms and that gives us the perfect time to divide and move them without disturbance.
Cyclamen anticipate fall in mid-summer with a flower here and there in the woods. Why this one and not that one? The first one this year wasn’t the first one last year and that is part of the mystery of plants. Sternbergias appeared in August with their bright yellow cup-like flowers that look comfortable in our heat. The later, larger ones are just now blooming in the woods and in sunny places in the front gardens. We dig, divide, and move the bulbs as soon as we see them poking up through the soil. As we dig to remove weeds in the rock garden we come across crocuses with extended bloom stalks, but no roots, and, of course, we impatiently await the sight of the first snowdrop!