Crocus the spring side

If Winter Aconits and Snowdrops are a sign of the end of the Winter then Crocuses are a sign of the beginning of the Spring to me. They give more possibilities in colours. From white to purple from light yellow to yolk and orange. Some have stripes some unicolour. The grasslike leaves have a silver line in the middle as you can see in the picture below.

Although Crocuses are a symbol of the spring, the name comes from one which flowers in the Autumn. Crocus is a plant known to and used by people for ages. The name comes from the Greek krokos which comes from kurkumin in Arabic which again means saffron. The saffron is indeed the dried pistil of the Crocus sativus. But that is the Autumn side of the crocus and which I will post in 6 months.

The genus Crocus is originaly from an area which streches between the Iberian Peninsula till the border of China. The most common varieties in our garden are usually from Europe and Turkey.

The early Crocus is the C. chrysanthus ( which means yellow flowering crocus) also known in English as Snow Crocus.

Crocus chrysanthus “Zwanenburg Bronze” and Scilla mischtschenkoana
Some cultivar of C. chrysanthus are not yellow, like here the “Prins Claus”.

I like crocuses because they are the first deep purple and blue flowers of the year. Here on the right there are two C. corsicus (Crocuses from Corsica and Sardignia). The Orange stigma and the yellow base contrast the light blue/lilac inside the petal and feathered purple on the outside. These colours start to give some dynamic in the plant bed.

Crocus tommasinianus “Ruby Giant”

C. tommasinianus is another early crocus. Originally from the Balkans and named in the honor of the botanist and mayor of the city of Trieste, Muzio de Tommasini . Known in English as “tommies” these crocuses were used a lot in the parks and for making blue lawns in the early spring with their delicate flowers.

A couple of weeks after these crocus comes the C. vernus, or the Dutch Crocus even though it’s originally from southern Europe. The wild flower is smaller than the many cultivars which are larger more round and bombée as we say in French than the earlier crocus. They look like small wild tulips.

Crocus vernus “King of Stripes”

We can find them mostly in white, purple or with stripes but some hybrids also with yellow flowers.

Crocuses spread easily, they flower in the early spring, before the first mowing of the lawn and the grasslike leaves make them perfect to plant in the lawn. Crocuses are linked with my first gardening experience. I remember to have planted a handful of bulbs in my parents’ garden when I was 11. It was a good way to learn about patience. After putting the bulb in the soil in Autumn and then having to wait till Spring to see the results. When it’s your first time to plant a bulb you have to resist to the temptation to dig and up root to check if everything is alive. They finally appeared in Spring and made me so happy. I think I have the same feeling each time a new plant that I have planted myself comes out from the soil and even more happy when the flowers open.

Above left, Crocus t. “Ruby Giant” and C. corsicus. over leaves of Geranium phaeum and Heuchera. Right top C.corsicus. Right bottom C.chrysanthus. “zwanenburg Bronze”.

Words and photographs : Maxime Carton

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