Crocus speciosus cultivars

John Grimshaw
Sat, 21 Oct 2006 00:44:52 PDT
I've been thinking of writing a note on Crocus speciosus for some days, so 
this thread is timely. I used to grow stocks obtained under the various 
names mentioned, but long ago gave up the struggle to either a) recognise or 
b) maintain them. As has been pointed out the species is prolifically 
fertile and seedlings soon muddle things up. The two old cultivars (I don't 
know 'Aino') that are distinct are 'Oxonian' and 'Aitchisonii'. 'Oxonian' is 
an appropriate dark blue, and 'Aitchisonii' has enormous soft blue flowers. 
I think I could recognise it from the mixed population in my parents' garden 
where the different stocks planted been spreading nicely for the past 15 
years. Seedlings now appear in all sorts of places in all sorts of shades, 
probably with some hybrids from C. pulchellus (although this doesn't happen 
as much as people think). I recently found a really beautiful clone that has 
arisen on the rock garden there, with soft, almost unveined, blue outer 
segments, without the greying typical of most stocks. I'll get it out and 
try to bulk it up.

One of the advantages of C. speciosus is that it also multiplies very well 
by production of offsets and over time quite big patches of recognisable 
clones develop in old gardens. There are such patches here at Colesbourne 
and some really fine ones in the arboretum at Kew. No doubt the occasional 
mole or a scratching rabbit or pheasant spreads the cormlets around.

The Dutch still maintain stocks of the names: a wholesale catalogue I have 
in front of me gives the following (note the interesting set of shades of 

speciosus subsp. speciosus    lilac-blue        35 euro/1000
'Aitchisonii'                            soft blue        55
'Albus'                                   white            175
'Artabir'                                light blue        55
'Cassiope'                            violet blue        55
'Conqueror'                         blue                35
'Oxonian'                            dark violet blue    100

35 euro for 1000 corms of such a splendid plant is pretty good value! I 
think I'll invest in a few thousand next year and see what the stocks look 
Last autumn I bought some packets labelled C. speciosus and C. pulchellus 
that were reduced to a very cheap price in the local garden centre because 
they were about to flower. They all turned out to be the same clone of C. 
speciosus, but it is a real beauty with big pale flowers and each planted 
corm has produced 4-5 noses this year, so it's probably been selected for 
rapid increase.

The great fault of C. speciosus is that its flowers soon fall over, but in 
any sort of still weather they stay up for several days and give a glorious 
effect. C. pulchellus is perhaps prettier and more beautiful for the 
connoisseur, but can't approach C. speciosus for garden effect. The plant 
sold as C. pulchellus 'Zephyr' is probably a hybrid with speciosus, and is a 
lovely soft grey - my favourite of the whole lot in fact - but its seedlings 
give white C. pulchellus.

John Grimshaw

Dr John M. Grimshaw
Sycamore Cottage
Nr Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL53 9NP

Tel. 01242 870567 

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