Crocus tournefortii

Jane McGary
Mon, 06 Nov 2017 10:24:09 PST
On a typical cloudy, chilly Portland (Oregon) morning I've been admiring 
the fortitude of Crocus tournefortii. Summer before last I decided to 
try it outside the bulb house, where it increases rapidly, and planted 
some in a raised bed constructed primarily for species tulips but 
augmented by a few summer-flowering small alpines and fall-flowering 
bulbs. There the crocus has succeeded through a colder and much wetter 
than average winter and a very hot summer with almost no irrigation. It 
flowers about the same time as the ones under cover. The unusual feature 
of this species is that it keeps its flowers open at night and in dim 
weather, while other crocuses close up. The flowers are large and soft 
lavender and show up well. The outdoor ones are looking fairly good 
despite recent heavy rain. Their soil is sandy, with added pumice and in 
the open bed some fertile compost and limestone chips.

Crocus tournefortii is restricted in nature to a number of islands off 
southern and eastern Greece, including Crete, growing, according to 
Brian Mathew's /The Crocus, /on "open stony ground and rock crevices, or 
in dryish scrub, usually on limestone formations but also recorded on 
mica-schist, sea level to 650 metres." Mathew recommends growing it 
under cover to protect the flowers, but I think it would be a good 
choice for the open garden in warm to moderate climates -- certainly a 
good choice for California. Its closest relative is Crocus boryi, which 
also grows both outdoors and under cover here, increasing best on a 
gravelly clay berm in the open and also appearing in nearby turf. 
Another in the same late-autumnal section is Crocus laevigatus, an 
excellent increaser which I unhappily lost to field mice (if you got it 
from me and have a lot, I'd appreciate a new start!).

I grew C. tournefortii from seed originally, about 25 years ago, and 
seed is sometimes available in the rock garden society exchanges. These 
fall crocuses do best if sown in late summer, but I had some germinate 
from the NARGS surplus distribution last year. Oron Peri's seed list is 
a good source, and he ships at the right time.

Jane McGary

Portland, Oregon, USA

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