Saffron Walden

Jane McGary
Fri, 07 Nov 2014 10:28:23 PST
Tim suggested using hardware cloth (galvanized wire mesh) to protect 
crocus corms from voles (field mice too). I also used aviary wire, 
which is like chicken wire with a smaller mesh size. However, for 
planting out in open beds, I prefer to use UV stabilized black PVC 
mesh "aquatic" pots, which do not rust in the ground or cause 
problems during digging in later years, and these are also easy to 
lift to get at the corms or bulbs. The best brand is Finofil, which 
has the mesh on the bottom as well as the sides; otherwise you have 
to poke holes in a solid base. I kept crocuses in sunken Finofil pots 
for many years in my former garden, which was loaded with voles and 
deer mice. Now, happily, I live in a suburb free of these pests, 
though now we have the eastern gray squirrel, which some idiot 
introduced to Portland, Oregon, years ago; it has driven out the 
native Douglas squirrel, which is smaller. So far the local gray 
squirrels have not figured out the underground food supplies I've 
added to the garden but I'm careful not to disturb the soil around, 
e.g., Cyclamen tubers.

Voles get at bulbs, etc., from underground tunnels, but mice mostly 
dig in from the surface, in my experience. Voles will use mole 
tunnels and perhaps mice do too. I used wire mesh over my crocus pots 
in my former cold frames, but now rejoice in a "varmint-proof" 
Mediterranean house where the crocuses can grow in raised beds, not pots.

Crocus tournefortii is presently decorating the bulb house, and I 
hope several of you got the corms and seed I donated to the BX. This 
is a large lavender crocus with the unusual quality of remaining open 
in dim weather and at night, and it's also fragrant. The leaves can 
reach 25 cm in length after flowering is finished. Mine have survived 
17 degrees F with only overhead protection.

Regarding saffron, my Mennonite neighbors at the former country place 
recognized saffron (not another crocus) in the garden and told me 
about growing it in Pennsylvania, and I shared some corms with them. 
Thanks to Roland for his detailed advice on growing it. I think my 
current failure with Crocus sativus is probably due to inadequate 
summer heating, and possibly also to the purchase of unhealthy corms; 
I did plant them deeply.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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