Crocus add spring spark
Early-flowering plants a joy
Got your spring bulbs in yet? Consider crocus, a hardy, easyto-grow plant that heralds the coming of the warmer months.
Crocuses are one of the earliest bulbs to flower, appearing in late winter or early spring, with either white, yellow or purple blooms.
They are minute plants, growing just 10 to 15 centimetres high, but they are enough to pull a garden out of the winter doldrums with their bright jewel tones.
They flower well in cooler climates, but not so well in warmer ones, needing a spell of cool weather to initiate blooming.
There are many species of crocus, though here in New Zealand we grow only a select few.
Crocus chrysanthus is one, Crocus vernus another, with a number of cultivars from each. You can get an extended show of blooms in your garden by planting both; Crocus chrysanthus cultivars bloom first, followed by Crocus vernus a few weeks later.
C. chrysanthus ‘‘Blue Pearl’’ is a popular variety, with light lavender-blue flowers that have white on the inside and a yellow throat.
‘‘Cream Beauty’’ is another chrysanthus type, this with cream petals, a yellow eye and a bright orange contrasting stamen.
It blends well with ‘‘Blue Pearl’’, as does ‘‘Prins Claus’’, a beautiful crocus with white petals brushed with deep purple markings.
The latter is gorgeous, one of my favourites, and especially vibrant against a background of green. ‘‘Sunkist’’ has bright yellow blooms.
Plant any one of these, along with Crocus vernus types for extended flowering.
A couple of others to consider are Crocus sieberi ssp. atticus and Crocus biflorus.
The former has soft lilac blooms with yellow eyes and is tolerant of moist conditions. ‘‘Firefly’’ is the most popular cultivar of this species.
Even when its buds are closed, you still see yellow at the bottom of the petals and lilac at the top.
Crocus biflorus has blooms in shades of lilac-blue. It grows well in dry, gravelly soil, so it’s ideal for rock gardens. ‘‘Purity’’ is pure white with a hint of yellow at the base.
It’s your last chance to plant these bulbs, so get them in the ground now.
They are tolerant of a wide range of soils, but it must be free-draining and in sun or partial shade.
They are best planted in groups, rather than the odd one dotted around the garden, to show them off to their best advantage.
Let them naturalise in the garden, under deciduous trees or in lawns.
You can plant them in containers too. Plant bulbs 5-8cm deep and 8-10cm apart.
How long a particular crocus blooms and how well can be dependent on the weather.
On completely clouded days your crocuses may not fully open, and if there is heavy rain for a period, they may get a little battered.
However, as crocuses tend to flower at different times,where one crocus opens in a period of inclement weather, another will open in a fine period.
In any case, the arrival of your crocus blooms is a sign that spring is on the way.
Plant crocus now.