In August some gardens have only annuals - these are pretty and useful because many bloom fast and keep going till frost if you deadhead them. But some of the loveliest flowers in August come from bulbs, corms and other perennials.
One of the most spectacular is colchicum (Autumn Crocus). These produce large, goblet-flowers which usually are pink-purple and single though 'Waterlily' is a popular double. Colchicum are hardy sun-lovers that adapt to most soils and increase into thick mats.
White colchicum aren't easy to get but the huge, white Colchicum speciosum is worth snapping up if you can find it. A smaller white is the fast-growing C. autumnalis alba. This has masses of flowers with pure white stems.
They all go dormant in summer and this is the only season they can be successfully moved. That's why August/September is the only time they're offered in nurseries. Squirrels never dig colchicum and rabbits won't eat it. It's very poisonous.
Also being sold at this time is the true autumn-flowering crocus which looks very like the spring crocus but flowers in late August and into September. The earliest flowering one I know is the pink-flowered Crocus zonatus. There's also the spectacular blue Colchicum speciosus which flowers a little later.
Both like sun and welldrained conditions. If you can keep squirrels and voles away, these crocuses will seed themselves into a little colony. Leaves emerge after flowering and remain through winter.
During August, Cyclamen hederifolium begins flowering. This little hardy cyclamen is dormant through summer, not caring if it's watered or not. If watering resumes in August flowering is triggered a little earlier than usual. During flowering watering should continue otherwise the blooms don't last as long.
The pink or white true cyclamen flowers are pretty - but the true glory of this cyclamen is the patterned leaves which emerge in fall and beautify the ground through winter. The basic form has green leaves with silver markings but many variations have been developed including solid silver leaves.
This cyclamen (and its winter-flowering cousin Cyclamen coum) isn't difficult from seed providing you know what to expect. Germination is staggered over several months and become dormant and vanish over summer. They'll reappear in fall. Flowering from seed takes about three years, but seed all around.
Another gorgeous August flower is the hardy agapanthus.
The variety I'm familiar with is 'Cally Hardy. This is usually safer mulched, but will come through a mild winter. Blooms are usually deep true blue and carried in allium-type heads. Leaves vanish with frost, but through spring and summer hardy agapanthus is a low-growing grassy-leaved mat.
Gardeners who like growing plant from seed shouldn't find this agapanthus difficult - though one has to wait a few years for flowers. Chiltern Seeds lists it most years. Time-short gardeners would likely find this agapanthus in specialty nurseries. Then there's Schizostylis coccinia which is frequently found in plant sales. It looks like a small hardy gladiolus with stems of reddish (or pink) starry flowers. It's a sun-lover with a reputation for doing better with watering.
But since I once saw it growing on a rock in North Vancouver, it may be open to experiment.
Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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