Saffron and bulbs in an English garden
Sun, 30 Oct 2005 22:58:44 PST
Jim McKenney wrote:

> Do any of you grow a form of Crocus sativus or C. medius which does not
> the color streaking?

I've given up on C. sativus but C. medius is one of my favourite crocuses. I
have grown the standard commercial clone since 1983: originally it flowered
and grew prolifically but has declined in vigour a good deal in recent years
(perhaps because it has had no attention since I planted it on the 'new'
rock garden in 1991) but a few come up each year on the rock garden and in
the lawn. Photographs from the early 1990s do not show anything like the
virus striping that it now has. Another stock of this clone, from Primrose
Warburg's garden, is apparently virus free. The nice thing about the old
commercial clone is its violet perfume.

More exciting in floral size, shape and colouring are seed-raised plants
derived from recent collections from the wild. These are much bigger and
altogether more attractive plants. the flowers are a rich purple with a
lovely pattern of veins in the throat, and a good orange-red stigma.

Crocus cartwrightianus, from which C. sativus is assumed to be derived, was
flowering well in my alpine house (at my parents home in Maidenhead) at the
weekend and scenting the air most beautifully. Also looking good were C.
serotinus subsp. serotinus, C. cambessedessii and some collected
dark-flowered clones of C. goulimyi that are much more attractive than the
usual pallid form (although this is superb when seen by the tens of
thousands in Greece about this time of year). As well as Crocus, there were
flowers on every species of autumn-flowering Cyclamen, including the Israeli
autumnal C. persicum and in the garden there was a flower of C. coum. Add a
scattering of snowdrops (various clones of Galanthus reginae-olgae and G.
peshmenii), Acis rosea and A. autumnalis and the alpine house is looking
quite lively, wth most other pots now showing some sign of burgeoning life.
In the open garden, Crocus caspius, C. laevigatus and C. serotinus subsp.
clusii and the medius as described above were looking good: I peered at the
rock garden for signs of C. longiflorus, but the only one I could see was
self-sown into the lawn. One Colchicum baytopiorum flower, but all the
others and Sternbergia are finished. Most bulbous colour came from nerines:
a late clone of N. bowdenii still looking great while others are dropping
ripe seed; the crinkly-petalled "wellsii" (nom. inval.) and the
disappointingly unwhite 'Alba'. In addition a good patch of the darker pink,
narrow-segmented form of N. undulata was superb, and its versions known in
commerce as N. flexuosa and N. flexuosa 'Alba' each had several flowering
scapes. These have all been in the open garden without protection or
attention since 1997. Most surprisingly, a plant of Moraea polystachya was
in flower in the border. I put the corm out a few years ago but haven't seen
much evidence of it since, so it has evidently survived the winters better
than I have gloomily suggested in previous postings.

John Grimshaw

Dr John M. Grimshaw
Garden Manager, Colesbourne Gardens

Sycamore Cottage
Nr Cheltenham
Gloucestershire GL53 9NP


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