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Garden Plot: Now’s the time to try these fall-blooming bulbs

Dahlias come in a wide range of colors from white, deep red and yellow to shades of pink and orange. (Diane Lynch photo / For The Ark)

Most of us think of bulbs, corms and tubers as spring bloomers. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths (Muscari) and crocus almost all bloom in spring.

But there are autumn-blooming crocuses, for instance, and one of them is where saffron (C. sativus) comes from. Saffron is used to flavor paella, turning the rice a lovely rich gold color, along with other Mediterranean dishes and Indian curries. Each little flower produces three red stigmas, or female parts, and it will take 75,000 of them to produce a pound of saffron. Of course, you’d never need a whole pound, but the fact that they are harvested by hand makes them a very expensive spice. If you plant a couple dozen autumn crocuses, you’ll have enough to use in the kitchen, and they will multiply over the years. Harvest the stigmas on a warm sunny day and put them somewhere to dry where they won’t blow away before storing in a sealed jar.

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