These low-growing petit perennials may be small but make a big impact when planted en mass. Either grouped or planted in drifts naturalising through a lawn or trees, crocus pop their heads above ground when we are most in need of cheerful colour. They pave the way for the forthcoming spring bulb-fest!
The name ‘Crocus’ is derived from the Greek word "Krókos" meaning thread, as in the golden threads of saffron and symbolises joy, new-beginnings and rebirth. Growing in most environments from alpine heights and meadows to woodland and the sea, crocus are hardy and versatile.
Perfect for sunny or partial shady pots, lawns and rockeries, crocus can be easily squeezed into tiny spaces, so are great for window boxes, terraces, urban or sprawling country gardens. And with shallow roots, they will also happily grow under trees. Just be aware crocus require sun to open up their faces so avoid spots that are densely shaded in late winter / early spring.
They are particular easy to grow. Their corms are planted in autumn and then flower from late winter to spring, requiring no maintenance, simply patience whilst waiting five weeks or so for their foliage to die back so the nutrients can re-absorb into the corm, as an energy store for next year’s display.
They rarely suffer from pests, but corms may succumb to being a tasty meal for hungry winter wildlife. Crocus corms are a firm favourite in a squirrel’s diet!
With so many crocus to choose from, how do you narrow it down…? Perhaps don’t. Just plant more!
Start the season off in autumn with hairy crocus, C. pulchellus, these stunning, purple-veined lilac flowers are related to C. speciosus and but less likely to flop in harsh weather. C. laevigatus or smooth crocus have delicate pale lilac petals with vibrant yellow throats, flowering in January. Fragrant C. aureus cheer up borders with golden flowers through January and February followed by the beautiful blue-violet flowers of C. etruscus in February. C. imperati are lilac and white flowers with purple striped outer petals, dazzling rockeries during January and February and purple/lilac C. tommasinianus, C. vernus and purple striped white flowers C. versicolor naturalise in lawns from late winter to spring.
If you fancy something completely different why not try growing your own saffron with autumn flowering C. sativus? Plant late summer.
This article was written for Fagus Gardening Club, Fagus Times monthly newsletter, for editor and club President Mary Payne MBE.
All photos © Debi Holland 2022