opening and closing of crocus; was: fall crocus

Jim McKenney
Tue, 17 Aug 2004 07:39:08 PDT
Our discussion of fall blooming crocus has resulted in Crocus tournefortii
being mentioned. I've had this species twice over the years, each time from
a different source. I find it curious that two PBS contributors, each of
whom has grown and seen a lot of good plants, should rate this species so
highly. As I see it, it's just another washy pale pinkish-blue crocus. In
fact, I think the corm is just as interesting as the flower. Should I ever
obtain one of the richly scented forms, my opinion of this species will soar.

But on reconsideration, something about this crocus occurs to me which
perhaps helps to explain the appeal of this crocus - and it's something
which is relevant to the whole topic of autumnal blooming crocus. As has
been mentioned, Crocus tournefortii, once it opens, remains open. This is
true of a number of other autumnal flowering crocus, including Crocus
sativus and its near relatives. These are the working person's crocus: they
will be waiting for you with, if not open arms, at least open tepals when
you finally get home. 

The later crocus bloom in the year, the shorter the day is. If you're away
from  the garden during the day, or you are held up at the office, you come
home to a dim or even dark garden. Typical crocus are closed up tight. If
they are in pots, you can bring them in and, as they warm up, they will
open. But if they are in the ground, there is not much you can do. I've
known weeks when a new and interesting autumn blooming crocus has opened on
Monday (while I was at work), bloomed through the early days of the week,
and then went down to heavy rain late in the week before I was home during
the day to enjoy it. 

So there is something to be said for these crocus which open and stay open.
I'm not aware of any late winter or vernal blooming crocus which has this
property. Can anyone else name one? 

And while I have this topic of the openings and closings of crocus at hand,
there is something else which deserves mention. How often have you seen
catalog photos of the lovely chrysanthus-biflorus hybrid crocus which show
the flowers closed or only a bit open? There is a good reason for that:
most of the interesting color patterning is on the outside of the flower.
Once these open wide, most become plain orange or white crocus. This is
particularly true of the very beautiful biflorus hybrids, some of which
have such beautiful suffusions of bluish purple. It's enough to make one
wish for cool, overcast weather during their season of bloom. 

Contrast that with the situation seen in Crocus imperati where the external
markings and color, lovely as they may be, pale in comparison to the rich
color of the interior of the flower. To my tastes, that's a much more
dramatic effect. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where if I were a plant
wizard, I would develop an inside-out crocus which had the patterning on
the inner surface of the tepal where it could be enjoyed all day.  

More information about the pbs mailing list