CROCUS

Plant bulbs from September to November 3 in. deep, in a rich sandy loam. Protect from birds by black cotton thread. Take bulbs up every third year after the leaves have withered, for division and transplanting.

The Large Dutch Crocuses are much better known than the wild or species crocus and their varieties which are described later. They should be planted in September or October 2 in. apart and about 3 in. deep. They are easily increased by separating the clusters of corms, though once planted they are best left undisturbed until the clumps show signs of deteriorating. The yellow varieties especially are liable to attacks by birds. The old method of stretching black cotton or thread over short sticks is still a good deterrent. If growing in pots or bowls indoors, plant more shallowly and closer — say 1 in. apart. Corms at least 9 in. in circumference are best. They should be plunged outdoors under a 4 in. layer of ashes for a month or so and brought indoors when about 1 in. of top growth is apparent. Crocuses must be grown cool and away from fire heat — the Golden Yellow variety cannot be generally recommended for bowls or pots, but all other kinds are usually very successful.

Choice of Varieties:

Amethyst: silvery amethyst-blue.

Enchantress: lilac-mauve.

Gladstone: deep purple.

Little Dorrit: silvery-lilac.

Mikado: silvery-grey with purple stripes.

Snowstorm: white.

Striped Beauty: ash-grey with mauve stripes.

Wild or Species Crocus:

Why so many amateurs neglect these small-flowering crocuses is difficult to understand. They are mostly very easy to grow, demanding the same conditions and treatment as the larger varieties and are by no means expensive. Their beauty is more subtle, more refined altogether than the fat and perhaps over-planted crocuses one sees in nearly every garden. Some species, notably Crocus tomasinianus, increase rapidly by means of self-sown seedlings. One can choose from species which flower in autumn, winter or early spring. Admittedly some flowers may be spoilt by bad weather but planting underneath trees or on a rockery alongside large stones will furnish shelter from cold winds and heavy rains. These crocuses are ideal subjects for window-boxes.

Autumn- Flowering:

C. asturicus atropurpureus: violet-purple. Late.

C. Karduchorum: pale lavender with a white throat. Early.

C. longiflorus: lilac with vivid scarlet stigmata. Fragrant. Late.

C. medius: bright purple. Late.

C. ochroleucus: creamy-white. Very effective naturalised in grass. Late. C. speciosus: the best-known of the autumn species and almost the earliest, flowering in September. The type is violet-blue but there are other forms in varying shades of blue as well as a white variety.

Winter-Flowering Species:

C. ancyrensis (Golden Bunch): tangerine-yellow, exceptionally free flowering, sometimes with 18 blooms to a corm.

C. imperati: violet.

C. laevigatus Fontenayi: pastel-lavender with a white throat.

Spring-Flowering Species:

The bulk of the wild crocuses bloom in early spring. C. Balansae: orange and mahogany-brown. C. biflorus (Scotch Crocus): white with blue stripes. Fragrant. C. chrysanthus: the various forms of this species are among the finest of all crocuses. They are first-rate rock plants, do well in bowls or pots and are delightful in window-boxes. Blue Beauty is a pleasing shade of pastel blue, darker towards the base of the petals, Blue Bird bluish-purple with brilliant orange-red stigmata, the blooms being very long-lasting, Cream Beauty, creamy-yellow and very attractive for decoration if grown in a shallow bowl, Snow Bunting, white, feathered indigo. E. A. Bowles is canary yellow with a bronze throat, the blooms standing up unusually well to wind and rain.

C. dalmaticus: pale mauve-blue with yellow throat. The variety Firefly is a rosy colour with orange stamens. C. olivieri: deep orange-yellow.

C. sieberi: lavender-blue with yellow throat and orange stigmata. Excellent for bowls and window-boxes. C. susianus (Cloth of Gold): brown and yellow.

C. tomasinianus: first-rate for naturalizing in grass, and seeds freely on most soils. The type is usually described as sapphire-lavender but there are several attractive variants, all very free-flowering. Barr’s Purple is more lilac than purple, Taplow Ruby is dark ruby-purple.

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