The flowers appear from spring to early summer but during mild winters they can bloom as early as February. Although these carpets of crocuses were impressive it was clear that I had caught them at the tail-end of their splendour and they are known to have a rather brief flowering time. Crocuses belong to the Iris family and other popular members are freesias and gladioli.
The Dutch crocus is said to be an ideal bulb to naturalise in grass. The striking white flowers veined with deep purple are the ‘Pickwick’ variety and are lovely to view by themselves or in clusters with plain coloured varieties. The colour can vary enormously although lilac, mauve, yellow and white are still the most common. When growing crocuses in grass it is best to leave the grass uncut for six weeks after flowering to encourage self-seeding. Bulbs should be planted in autumn preferably in a sunny position.
Interestingly the spice saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativu. Unlike the spring flowering crocuses the saffron crocus is an autumn flowering species with lilac or white flowers. It needs to be planted in full sun in soil that is well-drained, gritty and poor to moderately fertile. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and needs to be harvested by hand. It is estimated that over 4,000 dried crocus stigmas yield one ounce (28.35g) of saffron. Its wonderful to know that you can grow saffron in your own garden but equally wonderful that these fragile flowers brighten our world.
Thirty-two crocuses dressed up for spring
are clumped in a chorus and ready to sing.
Their melodies burst from deep inside.
Their golden throats are open wide.
Vanessa Lee Thomas