Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crocus Anyone?

I was in a bit of a quandary about a story topic until our granddaughter, Gracie, and I walked the yard.  Although things are definitely coming up spring, it’s still a rather drab messy time of the year in the gardens.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear?  The bright golden crocus I planted last year!
Like all spring flowering bulbs, crocus leaves need to absorb sunlight to enhance the next year’s growth.  Crocus naturalized in the lawn grass doesn’t work for me because the grass always needs mowing prior to the leaves dying back naturally. 

I’ve planted here and there in the flower beds only to forget and dig them up later in the season.  Still I’ve refused to give up on these little beauties.  This current batch is planted under the old walnut tree where the comfrey will grow later in the summer.

Crocus are among the first spring flowers to bloom.  They’re like a rainbow after the winter storm.  They come in a mass of brilliant colors:  shades of blue, gold, purple, white, mauve and stripes.  There’s a few new varieties pushing the old boundaries of color and form.   

Crocus are carefree:  Plant them in this area of the Midwest and forget until they put on the show.  Plant in sun or partial shade (during bloom time) and well drained soil.  They have good drought tolerance.  They are disease, deer and pest resistant.  Cover with screen wire if squirrels dig up bulbs in your yard. 

Spring-blooming crocus should be planted in the fall. Fall-blooming crocus should be planted in late summer or early fall. Plant the corms with the wide side down and the buds facing up. Place them 2 or 3 inches deep and about 3 or 4 inches apart; they will spread.
Crocus look best when planted in drifts or patches.  Because they only get eight inches tall, they will get visually lost if not planted in groups.  I dig one hole, plant several, and dig another hole and repeat.  Don’t much too deep. 

Unlike this year, crocus often bloom while there’s still snow on the ground and the weather freezing.  Plant where you can see them from the window if you want full enjoyment each year. 

 The bulbs (actually called corms) are from the iris family.  Different kinds bloom in spring, winter or fall.  They are not native to the United States.  When buying crocus corms, the bigger the better.  The better the more expensive.  Now the reality:  cheap and small isn’t all that bad either. 

One interesting little fact:  The spice saffron comes from an autumn blooming crocus.  Most original words for crocus mean yellow saffron.  It takes thousands of crocus flowers to make an ounce of saffron – hence the cost.

 If you’re looking for a little brightness to bring your spirits up next spring, plant a batch of crocus this fall!   (Or is it a covey, or herd, or gaggle?)         

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