Crocuses are sometimes underrated garden gems, bringing a welcome splash of colour to gardens, heralding the end of winter and the start of the much-awaited longer days and warmer weather ahead.
The funnel-shaped flowers grow on short stems low down to the ground, from 10-15cm (4-6in) high, and open and close with sunlight. They often have delightful colour contrast between the inner and outer petals, sometimes with contrasting markings.
Like other spring and winter-flowering bulbs (crocus actually grow from corms, not bulbs) crocus should be planted in autumn. But the autumn-flowering crocus should be planted in late July or August.
You may find that some garden centres and nurseries sell potted crocus plants in February/March already in leaf, which can be planted immediately and will flower in-situ. Otherwise, if you don’t already have any crocus in your garden, you’ll have to plant this autumn and then wait until next year to brighten the gloom with these gorgeous jewels.
To see the full range of crocus, and all the other bulbs available, visit the de Jager website or call 01622 840229 for a catalogue. Online orders receive a 10% discount on the catalogue prices.
Here are five fabulous crocus to grow in your garden.
This is often called the woodland crocus or Tommasini’s crocus, after the botanist that named it. ‘Tommies’ produce flowers that can vary from slivery lilac to reddish purple and are usually paler on the outside. These are a very welcome sight in February and March, flowering at the same time as the narrow foliage emerges. It is a species that is more tolerant of shade than many of its cousins, making it a great choice for woodland areas or around trees. It is also one of the finest for naturalising in lawns, as it freely self seeds, and is also a good companion for dwarf grasses.
Crocus ‘Snow Bunting’
This is one of the best chrysanthus crocus varieties, flowering from February to March. As its name suggests, it bears masses of white flowers, with a faint feathering of indigo on the outer petals. These contract beautifully with, and are set off by, the greenish-yellow petal bases and orange stigmas. The flowers produce the characteristic sweet crocus scent. It looks lovely with snowdrops, Cyclamen coum and Chionodoxa in a rock garden, at the front of borders and in pots. It easily naturalises in grass.
This is another gorgeous chrysanthus crocus, this time producing delightful deep golden yellow, fragrant flowers, purple-brown at the base and orange central stigma. Plant them in clumps for the best effect, or in pots that you can move around for a sunny, bright instant glow in the garden.
‘Vanguard’ is usually the earliest of the large-flowered crocus cultivars to bloom, starting in February. Sometimes described as a bicolour, the outer petals have greyish backs, contrasting with the lilac-mauve inner and orange stigma. Even the closed flower buds are attractive, with their silvery-grey colouring. Plant it in bold swathes and leave undisturbed, and it will increase in numbers each year to produce a great garden feature.
While most crocus produce their colourful blooms at the end of winter, Crocus sativus brings autumn gardens to life, flowering in September and October. The large, goblet-shaped flowers are rich lilac with distinctive purple veins and a colourful red stigma. This plant is very special in another way. It’s the saffron crocus, from which the very much sought after spice is made from. So, yes, you can grow your own saffron – ounce for ounce the world’s most expensive spice and more expensive than gold – at home! Just pick and dry the stigmas. It needs a warm, sunny, free-draining site in the border or grow it in pots. And make sure you can identify the plants without question before harvesting and using this precious spice.