Crocus notes

Jane McGary
Sun, 14 Dec 2003 14:24:25 PST
The only crocuses flowering here at present are Crocus laevigatus 
'Fontenayi', the always reliable Christmas crocus, and the dauntless C. 
ochroleucus, currently tightly furled against last night's 2 inches of wet 
snow. Nevertheless, it is heartening to look into the bulb frame (once the 
slush slides off the lights) and view the foliage of autumnal species, as 
well as the emerging shoots of those that flower in January.

I was just writing notes on which plastic-labeled pots needed permanent 
metal labels, and spent a while in the "small pots of Crocus" section. I 
noticed that some xeric species were too close to the drip from the 
ridgepole (a problem with A-frame designs like most of mine) and switched 
them into drier spots.

This also makes me reflect on gaps in the collection, a train of thought 
common to the obsessed collector. One systematic gap is easily explained: 
the species C. gilanicus, C. veneris, C. autranii, C. cyprius, and C. 
hyemalis are almost impossible to obtain as seed, and probably tender (I 
had C. veneris and C. hyemalis and lost both in a cold winter). There are 
rarely encountered though probably growable species, such as C. almehensis 
from Iran, and those that are very recently named and only tenuously in 
cultivation as yet. There are also a few that I can't explain. Why can't I 
maintain the lovely blue C. abantensis for more than a few years? It's a 
mountain meadow plant, but many other crocuses I grow come from similar 
habitats. And why isn't C. pelistericus from Macedonia more widespread in 
cultivation? To be sure, it's a summer-flowering, moisture-loving alpine, 
but I have read that a lot of seed was collected in recent years.

I'm experimenting with keeping these alpine, summer-growing crocuses in the 
plunge area where I grow nonbulbous alpines, but I haven't yet flowered C. 
scharojanii, despite having 4-year-old plants. Comments on success with 
them would be welcome. Presumably they do better in serious cold-winter 

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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