INFORMATION ABOUT CROCUS…
By: Nikki Phipps
Image by thanq Crocus has a long history. According to legend, the Greek Gods Zeus and Hera loved each other so passionately that the land where they lived burst open with crocuses. The crocus was also famous for both aesthetic and practical reasons in the ancient world—used in medicine, as food and as a source of dye. The crocus was connected with ceremonies as well and crocus essence was used as a perfume.
Emerging from underground corms with colorful, goblet-shaped blooms and variegated, grass-like foliage, crocus flowers can bring a welcome splash of color to both early spring and fall landscapes.
Although there are about 80 species of crocus native to Europe and Asia, only about 30 species are cultivated. Crocus blooms look amazing planted in drifts along the front of mixed beds and borders. A variety of crocus species are great for naturalizing in the lawn. Crocuses also make lovely additions to rock gardens or beneath trees and shrubs. You can also grow many varieties of crocus in containers.
Spring-flowering varieties include species of the Snow Crocus, C. chrysanthus, C. sieberi, and C. tomasinianus. The Snow Crocuses got their name from the early appearance each one makes, which can sometimes be in late winter. C. chrysanthus is a native of Greece with beautiful yellow or lavender-blue flowers. C. sieberi species are fairly short and good choices to naturalize. Most varieties include shades of blue, mauve, or purple, with yellow centers.
A Hungary native, the 4-inch tall C. tomasinianus is one of the earliest spring-blooming species with purple flowers.
Other popular spring bloomers include C. corsicus, which has bright lilac flowers with creamy yellow outer petals veined with purple. This species is noted for its honey scent.
A yellow-flowering Balkan native, the species C. flavus makes a wonderful accent to the spring garden.
C. vernus, or Dutch Crocus, is native to Southern Europe. This species of crocus can be found in shades of white, purple, or bicolored and looks spectacular in woodland settings.
Fall-flowering varieties of crocus include C. sativa, which is probably the most well known. The Saffron Crocus is commonly grown not just for its beauty but for its use in the kitchen. The flowers of this species are harvested and dried to produce the world’s most expensive spice—saffron.
Often referred to as the Autumn Crocus, C. medius is a native of Italy. This stunning crocus has bright blue flowers with vivid orange stamens.
C. banaticus is a genuine gem in the garden. The rich lilac flower is more like an iris and stands out from the rest of the crocus family.
C. kotschyanus, or C. zonatus, varies in color from pink to lilac with an interior yellow blotch at the base of each petal. This is considered an heirloom species.
Another beautiful autumn crocus and native from Greece, C. goulimyi has rounded goblets of opalescent lavender flowers that are sweetly scented.
C. ochroleucus is a miniature autumn-flowering crocus that is creamy white with a yellow throat.
Crocuses are not only easy to grow but extremely hardy and will thrive in a variety of soils provided that it has adequate drainage. Ideally, crocus prefers a well-drained, humus-rich soil.
Crocus can be located in either sun or light shade and should be planted a couple inches deep opposite its particular blooming cycle. For instance, a spring-flowering crocus should generally be planted in late summer or fall, while an autumn-flowering variety is planted in the spring.
Crocus self-multiplies each year and new plants can be formed through seeds or division; however, division of its offsets seems to be the most effective propagation method.