Sunday 29 September 2013

Colchicum speciosum 'Album'

Colchicum speciosum 'Album'
It has been a lovely weekend and I've been busy in the garden, mostly planting bulbs but also tidying, dead-heading and finishing the new gravel beds. The garden is full of colour and interest, but among everything a small clump of Colchicum speciosum 'Album' stands out for the pure beauty of its flowers. It is always a favourite and this year it has been able to develop to perfection  in dry weather. These plants are derived from a single corm bought from de Jager in 1983: I can't recall how much it cost, but at the time it was an expensive purchase for a schoolboy, certainly the most expensive plant I'd bought to date.

E.A. Bowles wrote of it fondly in  My Garden in Autumn and Winter (1915) and it is worth quoting his comments here:  'It is now many years since I first saw the glorious white form of C. speciosum. It was in Messrs. Backhouse's nursery in York, and there were then only three bulbs of it in existence and they were worth their weight in banknotes. I next saw it at a Royal Horticultural Society's Show, a few in a pan, and still at a price only suitable for millionaires. But this most beautiful of all autumnal bulbous plants happily possesses a good constitution, and has increased so well that now a shilling will purchase one, and no garden in the temperate zone should be without it. The purity of its whiteness is as perfect as one can desire; the substance of the flower is almost as firm as a White Lily's petal, and the greenish tinge of the tube is just right to set off the purity of the rest. ... It must have been a happy day for the man who first discovered it in the seed bed, for apart from any visions of the monetary value of such a fine novelty he must have felt a glow of satisfaction and benevolence when realising what an amount of pleasure so beautiful and so hardy plant would give to the lovers of beautiful flowers. I would rather have been the raiser of C. speciosum album than to have owned a Derby winner.'

I see from a handy bulb catalogue that the retail price is now around £7.00 per corm, which seems a lot more than Bowles's shilling, but the Bank of England inflation calculator suggests that a shilling in 1915 would now equate to £7.25, so there hasn't been much change in a century.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful Bowles quotation, especially the thoroughbred final line.


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