Jane McGary
Mon, 31 Oct 2005 10:06:01 PST
Jim wrote,
>Many years ago, someone published a note in (I think) one of the quarterly
>bulletins of the North American Rock Garden Society about the cultivation of
>some autumn-blooming crocus in Cornell, New York.

The article is "Fall Crocuses" by W. J. Hamilton, Jr., of Ithaca (right 
university, Jim, wrong town name), New York. It appeared the Bulletin of 
the ARGS 36(2):71-78, Spring 1978. It's quite a good article -- perhaps I 
should reprint it, and I may start doing that if I get desperate enough for 
copy for the present incarnation of this periodical, which I edit.

I hope someone who has a good healthy population of C. sativus will trade 
me some next summer. I had good ones when I started this garden in 1984, 
but rodents ate them, and the replacements I purchased dwindled despite 
informed cultivation, suggesting that they were virused.

Also interesting was Angelo's description of wild populations of Crocus 
thomasii. Like most others, I grow only the light lavender form, which sets 
seed enthusiastically and does well in my rock garden as well as in the 
bulb frame.

Other interesting fall crocuses (in addition to the Sativi series) in 
flower now include C. nudiflorus, C. longiflorus, C. biflorus ssp. 
melantherus (unusual fall-blooming biflorus subspecies), the showy C. 
robertianus, C. tournefortii (which forgets to close its flowers at night), 
various kinds of C. serotinus, C. mathewi, C. boryi, C. hermoneus, some 
lovely white forms of C. goulimyi, C. speciosus, and C. pulchellus. The 
last-named has naturalized a little in the rough pasture grass near the 
bulb frame, presumably sown by ants; I never knew it was there until I 
started having the field mown in fall as well as late spring. C. 
ochroleucus has made its first appearance in a warm spot and will continue 
into December, when C. laevigatus (somehow surviving in the open, too) will 

Looking at that list, I realize that the depredations by rodents my crocus 
collection suffered last year seem to have concentrated on spring-flowering 
species--perhaps because the mouse assault started in December, when the 
fall crocuses mostly had their leaves up and thus had smaller, less 
succulent corms at that stage of their annual cycle.

As for storing saffron, I think that (like many other seasonings) it has to 
be kept in a dark, airtight container to preserve its virtue. I don't like 
the taste of it so haven't harvested it much; to color food golden yellow, 
I usually use turmeric or the Latin American spice annatto.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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