Milk Pots and Virused Crocus (not!)

anthony goode
Tue, 11 Feb 2003 13:03:06 PST
Poor little unloved crocus!…
Nobody rates its charms and some think it might harbour (dreaded)
virus.  The image I posted yesterday is not Jane's mystery crocus nor
is it a very attractive crocus but I am confident that it is not
carrying virus disease.  I have three potfuls, almost identical, from
three different sources, two raised from seed.  While the flowers are
strangely marked it shows none of the other signs of virus which I
have occasionally observed in my collection (and briefly - sick plants
are quickly disposed of.)  Take a look at…
photographed in the wild which is not dissimilar to my stray crocus.

Virus can cause yellow streaks in the foliage, as it does in
narcissus, flowers of virused plants may be mis-shapen, perhaps with a
petals.  (I am no expert in this area but have removed four or five
pots from around 800 accessions to the collection over ten years.)

Crocus are susceptible to aphid attack when grown under glass, the
aphids find shelter on the lower parts of the foliage, sometimes
hidden from view on the keeled reverse of the leaves.  I now grow
almost all crocuses in open sided cold frames (we rarely get prolonged
freezing temperatures) which allows maximum air movement around the
plants.  The covers are used for protection in the worst winter
weather and during dormancy to keep out summer rains.  The covers are
removed entirely in spring and autumn plus mild spells in winter.  I
keep a can of aerosol contact insecticide just in case.  Systemic
insecticide might work as a preventative but I presume the aphid has
to take a bite of the plant first which seems to defeat the object.
What do other bulb growers do?

Milk Pots.  Yes, well observed, I do use cut down plastic milk cartons
as pots.  Sounds shabby but there are good practical reasons.   The
cartons are rectangular with straight sides.  I cut slits in the
bottom corners for drainage.  The pots they make are around 5 inches
deep.  The advantages:
1. Space efficiency - square/rectangular pots fit together closely
saving valuable frame space.
2. These vertical sided pots fit so snugly that there is very little
space for slugs/snails to hide between them.
3. They are also effectively self plunging, no space for cold air to
circulate around the pots reducing the chance of the pots freezing
I stand them on a bed of damp sand four  to six inches deep which
provides a buffer for excess moisture.  The plants often root through
the drainage holes into the sand which is undoubtedly enriched by
nutrients washed through from the compost.  The sand remains slightly
moist through the summer which in turn helps avoid dessication.

They may not be as aesthetically pleasing as round clay pots but are
frost proof and when packed closely and topdressed to the rim with
grit they are almost invisible.  If I did not want to remove pots
occasionally, I would cover the rims and create the impression of a
bulb bed - no pots visible at all.  The one disadvantage that I would
mention is that such close planting does reduce the air flow around
the plants which can increase the risk of aphids multiplying unseen.
(see above)

Sorry to be so long winded .. but you did ask.  :)

Tony Goode.  Norwich UK

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