Crocus speciosus

There is a handful of choice flowers which rejuvenate the autumn garden with a fresh look of spring, and Crocus spe-ciosus, a native of the Near and Middle East, is one of the most delightful. In early or mid-autumn it shoots up from the ground and opens within two or three days, often choosing its moment when there is rain after a long spell of drought. The flowers come before the long dark green leaves.

It is a bulb 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm) high, with large, goblet-shaped flowers of variable colours, from pale lavender to deep mauve, or white in the variety ‘Albus’. The petals have a delicate net-work of violet veins inside, and the conspicuous stamens have yellow anthers. It is a fine bulb for naturalizing, as colonies build up quickly through clumping and seeding if the bulbs are left undisturbed.

Crocus speciosus is easy to grow in any well-drained soil and looks exciting in rough grass if you can time your mowing right, cutting the grass once or twice when the daffodils have died down, and holding back the final mowing until the crocus leaves have faded. It also looks well in a flower border among the Michaelmas daisies, but is perhaps best of all among shrubs, where the soft lilac and white will contrast happily with autumn colour. Plant the bulbs in late summer.

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