Does anyone have any creative ideas about what to plant with or near colchicums so that the foliage can be disguised in the spring but the flowers will be unobstructed in the fall? I always find myself waiting eagerly to cut down the foliage because it is so big and it gets floppy and messy long before it yellows. I worry about cutting it down too soon but eventually I just can't stand the sight of it anymore and cut it probably sooner than I should. Any plants I can think of that are big enough to hide the messy foliage are also big enough to hide the flowers when they bloom in the fall. Also when is the best time to dig the corms to move them? I would be very grateful for any advice you might have.
Need advice about colchicums
Chris, sorry, I'm not too familiar with the plant, but I found it described as an autumn crocus, and I've never grown it. Obviously you've gots lots of lookers without an idea of what to plant, and I'm one of them. Pretty little flowers, so why not try putting them into a window box of sorts? Containerizing can keep them outdoors but mobile enough to move to a border or out of the way until they bloom. When you put bulbs into containers, they need to be reasonably deep, at least 4-6 inches, and you have to remember to provide proper drainage (generally). There are a few exceptions that don't apply here. Containers give lots of flexibility.
I really can't suggest any way to hide the spring foliage of colchicums without also hiding the fall flowers, other than with, say annuals, that you might pull out in fall. I suggest just learning to live with it... it has its own beauty - reminds me of hostas as it emerges, and is just as decorative as any other foliage in the garden, and it also adds some interesting colour as it starts to yellow. I like growing them through low-ish groundcover mats, such as Phlox subulata, and I simply cut the foliage off when it goes yellow. The best time to move the bulbs is any time during dormancy, that is, after the foliage has died back, but before the flowers start emerging from the underground bulbs.
I suppose you could go the container route, if you don't mind lots of maintenance, by comparison. Doesn't seem at all worth it, to me... a brief period of yellowing foliage is just part of the whole garden cycle for ephemeral plants, which I would definitely rather not do without.
How about Wood Violets? Viola http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/63742/
Verbena is perennial here. You might have a hard time finding it in your area. http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/62648/
Go to plant files and enter the genus names I have given you - might find others that a similar and meet your needs.
Nice suggestions for ground covers; all would be very nice to have colchicum grow through. None, though, is tall enough to hide colchicum foliage (which gets over a foot tall here), which I don't think is a realistic goal anyway. The flowers would look great coming up through all of these.