Friday, 28 February 2014

Winter on the Wane

winter on the wane - crocus flowers
Winter's waning by the time the crocus start to bloom as they usually start to flower as the snow is melting.

Don't laugh but would you believe that I'm choosy these days when it comes to growing crocus. When I first started to plant crocus I bought a few 'value packs' of corms that had a mixture of colours together -  nowadays I wouldn't dream of doing such a thing!  In later years I transplanted them all so that I could keep the similar flower colours together.  Though it's a yearly job as misfits always seem to pop up.

That was also the time when bigger was better in my eyes and I bought many of the larger showier Crocus vernus Dutch spring flowering types.  I'm not as big fan of those late flowering crocus as I once was.  They certainly have their place in the garden as they extend the flowering period of crocus and are good for the early bees in flight.  The birds can peck at those flowers all they want and the squirrels and mice can raid my corm stock ... but just as long as they leave my smaller flowers well alone!  The little diminutive snow crocus are much more favourable in my eyes..  

Crocus flowers are thermonastic just like tulips.  You'll all have seen the affects of thermonasty but probably didn't realise the scientific name behind it.  It means that a slight increase in temperature will bring about the opening of the flowers and a decrease will close them though on wet cloudy days the flowers will probably remain shut.  All that's needed for a thermonastic reaction to start in a crocus is a change of temperature no more than 0.5 °C.  
Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty'
  Winter flowering Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' with roots, corm, stem, linear leaves with a silvery central stripe and flower
corm - swollen underground plant stem that's also a storage organ used by the crocus to survive winter

Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty'  has soft creamy 'naples yellow' tepals with a purple feathering at the base along with a mild gentle fragrance. The best about the chrysanthus species of crocus is that they can produce many flowers per corm.  Cream Beauty grows in a drift under my  deciduous Silver Weeping Pear Tree and practically hugs the soil as it's stems are very short.   It's very dry in this spot during the summer months which suits these bulbs so well in their dormant season. Hopefully the new growth from the Geraniums I planted here last year will camouflage their dying grassy leaves.
Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty'
Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty'

Crocus chrysanthus 'Spring Beauty' is white with a feathering of purple on the outside of the tetals.  Then as the flowers open in the sunlight you'll see that the inner tepals are a pale violet that contrasts with the bright orange anthers.  This one grows in one of my scree beds in the front garden.  
Crocus chrysanthus ''Spring Beauty'
Crocus chrysanthus ''Spring Beauty'

When it comes to the yellow snow crocus it's quite hard to tell them apart as many of them grow in the same part of the garden.  
Crocus chrysanthus var 'Fuscotinctus'  | Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks'
Crocus chrysanthus var 'Fuscotinctus' (left image) | Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' (right image)

Crocus chrysanthus var 'Fuscotinctus' has fragrant yellow flowers stripped with bronze. 

Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' is usually the 2nd crocus to flower in the garden and it has a light fragrance.  It's a bright cheery buttercup yellow with a darker brown base on the throat of the flower.   

Both of these yellow ones seem to liberally increase in number every year.

Crocus tommasinianus is a woodland crocus and not liked by deer, rabbits, squirrels or mice.  It's also known to many as 'Tommys', Tommies' or Tommasini crocus after the Italian Botanist Muzio G Spirito de Tommansini.  It has a very slender pale silvery lilac tepal and it's always the first crocus in the garden  to start to flowering.  It faces south in the garden in a raised bed next to one of the bark pathways.  
Crocus tommasinianus
Crocus tommasinianus  with bright yellow stamens and reddish orange styles
Crocus tommasinianus 'Whitewell Purple' is new to the garden this year and so far it hasn't flowered.  Well truth be told I can't remember exactly where I planted them.  I'm not holding out much hope of them even coming into flower this year as I planted them far too late in the season. Crocus really need to be planted as soon as possible in the autumn.  Mine were planted in December ...well I can't resist a bargain!

Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'  has a much bigger darker globlet flower than the other 'Tommy' crocus though it's sterile.  
Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'
Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant' 

Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimi forma 'Tricolor' has a violet, yellow and white flowers with fragrant flowers.  It too gets baked in the summer and grows in the scree bed under one of my yellow witchhazels.
Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimi forma 'Tricolor'
Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimi forma 'Tricolor'
Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimi forma 'Tricolor'
Crocus sieberi subsp. sublimi forma 'Tricolor'
These winter flowering crocus naturalise quite easily by self seeding unlike the larger Dutch ones and Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'  which are sterile and need to increase via corms.  They also require a planting position that receives at least half a day of sunlight.  If there are any early pollinators around they'll only visit those flowers that are open in the sunshine.  Eventually mine will become dense swards of late winter colour.  The books say to plant the bulbs in autumn 2-3 inches deep in well drained soil  I'd say that mine are planted a bit deeper than this as it seems to deter the squirrels. 

What crocus grow in your garden and are they earlier or later to flower this year for you? I hope it won't be long for winter to wane in your region too!  

Thanks for stopping by today and I would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section.

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Rosie is a passionate wildlife gardener in Scotland, a Perthshire / Tayside flower and garden photographer and writer.  She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that buzzes, creeps, crawls or flutters. She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography.

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Hi Rosie. Your photos of all kinds of crocus are just lovely. I do have a question for you. While at the grocery store yesterday I saw little pots of crocus for sale. They were not blooming, tips only showing. The plant tag in the pot simply said put the pots in a sunny window and enjoy them when they begin to bloom and then plant them later in your garden after the flowers fade. I have never thought of crocus as a semi-houseplant. What's your opinion?

Hi Jane you can keep them indoors but it would need to be a very cool room. The flowers will certainly open out indoors very quickly. If it's not freezing temperatures outside I'd just plant them in the garden especially if the tips are just showing in the soil and wait for them to flower in another few weeks. But I suppose it all depends on how impatient you are for a few flowers. I cut some of mine and bring them indoors. They will last about 3 days on the windowsill as a cut flower.

As with any bulbs in the garden, I'm on a mission to find a way of protecting my crocuses from attack, mainly pheasants, squirrels and mice. Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' certainly lives up to its name. As with daffodils, I much prefer the diminutive varieties and planted under trees in drifts it would indeed look spectacular. Crocus tommasinianus is pretty too.

Absolutely beautiful!!! I love Crocusses, so fragile and delicate, probably why they don't survive in our wet garden.
Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful photography,

Beautiful signs of Spring on the way. Of course the Crocus is a flower I never get to see here, so I really enjoy your photos. Over here our summer has officially ended and while the summery conditions will continue for quite a while yet, at least the end is in sight.

Hi Rosie,
Thanks for this post - it is good to get to know some more varieties of crocus. I also have Cream Beauty, in a pot and in the rockery, and it is lovely especially when the sun shines. I have Whitewell Purple too - it is quite small and delicate and not easy to see, but should be lovely if it naturalises. I have a few other random ones that pop up from time to time in the herbaceous border, but they don't seem to last long there - it could be the squirrel. Have you ever tried the Autumn flowering Sativus. I planted as directed last Autumn but maybe I was too late as no flowers appeared at all - just the rather spindly leaves!

Spring Beauty is exquisite, and I love the translucent qualities of Crocus tommasinianus.

Gobsmacked ♥ beautiful shots Rosie x

Beautiful photos Rosie. I can't wait until my crocus are blooming in the garden. By the looks of this winter it will probably be another several weeks. This was a pretty and informative post and I love how you portrayed the images in the collage at the end...thanks for the smile!

Beautiful photos Rosie. Weeks away from seeing crocus in my garden. Thanks for sharing yours. Jen

The first ever crocus I planted were Crocus chrysanthus Cream Beauty - sadly most of them have disappeared and mauve and purple seems to have taken their place! I've never bought any in those colours. I've just bought some C. chrysanthus Romance and have kept them well away from anything else! I planted some Blue Pearl in autumn in pots, they seem to be miles behind the rest and are just showing above the soil.
Your Crocus are gorgeous Rosie and I can't wait until mine spread like those. Spring Beauty is one I must add to my list for autumn.

A hasty note to remind you there will be a link box for Tree Following posts on Loose and Leafy tomorrow. It'll stay open for seven days.

Really interested to see all the different types of specie crocus that you grow, as so often is the case in the plant world hybrids are not always the most appealing when compared with the simple beauty of the species.

Wow I learn a lot from you. I've always thought crocuses were just crocuses! Because I don't grown them I don't know anything about them. I've meant to plant some in the lawn for years but never got round to it! You have some real beauties and your photos are amazing, as always.