Some early crocuses

Jim McKenney
Wed, 25 Feb 2009 08:01:42 PST
January and February have both been cold months here in zone 7 Maryland. As
a result, 2009 is getting off to a slow start in the garden. Although the
usual early risers are up and about their business, the overall sense of
bone chilling cold (blame the wind for this) makes it hard to enjoy the
garden. But the witch hazels, aconites, winter jasmine and snowdrops are all
out there doing their thing. And this week they were joined by the earliest
crocuses, garden forms of Crocus tommasinianus. 

Before those crocuses in the open garden began to bloom the crocuses growing
in some unprotected cold frames started to bloom. Frames are an ideal place
to grow crocuses: the frames protect the flowers from damage from weather or
most animals. The local sparrows give forth with a mighty chirp when the
first crocus flowers appear: they seem to be saying “Yippee, the salad bar
is open again!”   And they have good reason to be attentive in this matter
because if they are not, the rabbits and deer get the first choices. 

A nice selection of the commonly available garden crocuses is blooming now
in the unprotected frames. Because it’s necessary to get out early to open
the frames before they heat up too much, I now see these crocuses much more
that I ever did when they were grown in the open garden. Many of these
cultivars have very beautiful markings on the outside of the tepals. To
appreciate these, you have to see the blooms before they open. 

Before I grew these plants in the frames I never really knew them. One
reason: when these flowers open, they all suddenly become one of two
crocuses – little white-flowered ones or little orange-yellow flowered ones.
That’s because the distinguishing markings are on the outside of the tepals.
Once the flowers are wide open, they lose their identity. 

And then there the ones which have delicate, exquisite colors: two favorites
now are ‘Weldenii Fairy’ and ‘Blue Pearl’. From a distance the former looks
like a white-flowered crocus; close up, one can see that the white is very
delicately sprinkled with purple-blue on the outside of the tepals. 

‘Blue Pearl’ I’m seeing as if for the first time this year. I’ve long grown
this cultivar in the open garden where it gives the impression of being a
white-flowered crocus. If you catch the buds as they are emerging, you might
see a hint of blue. In the frames, the flowers really show the blue tints –
they are much bluer than I had ever noticed before. It helps to see them out
of direct sun. 

I grow a lot of crocuses, some of them uncommon and not readily acquired.
‘Blue Pearl’ can be acquired for all of 30 cents per corm. I know that a lot
of gardeners allow price tags to influence their sense of esthetics in a bad
way – they have low regard for inexpensive, common things. To my eyes, ‘Blue
Pearl’ is as beautiful as any crocus I’ve ever seen, and now that I’ve
finally really seen it,  I don’t want ever to be without it. 

You can see these and others at my blog:

Look for the entry "Early crocuses" on February 24, 2009.

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where Fritillaria raddeana has poked its nose up. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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