It is the 1st February tomorrow. Winter has been throwing what will, hopefully, be its last cold weapons at us and spring should be around the corner. With some snow flurries in the last few days, and the ground frozen solid, this is hard to belief right now. However, I noticed yesterday the first struggling green shots appearing from my Crocus bulbs.
Within a few weeks they will have forced their way through and will eagerly grab any of the sun's rays that are on offer. They will open with the sun to show all of their tiny glory and close as the day ends. In my part of the world, these early flowering bulbs show that winter will soon leave us for a while and that spring and then summer will follow.
The tiny Crocus flowers are so often overlooked. In spring, the majestic Daffodils and pretty Tulips will usually be far more popular.
Crocuses are bought as very small corms. A corm is slightly different to a bulb and tends to be smaller. A packet of these corms will usually contain about fifty corms and is quite cheap.
Crocuses originated in Europe and I suppose that is one of the reasons why they seem quite happy with the UKS strange temperate climate. However, they are really from the more southern regions of Europe.
My Crocuses are among the many plants which were swamped in June 2007's flooding but have survived. They are very hardy little plants. They are also perennials, which mean that they keep coming back into flower year after year.
The crocus is from the Iris family, or Iridaceae, and personally I can see that connection in the flowers. The name crocus is from the Greek word, Krokos. This relates to the fact that the spice Saffron is taken from a particular crocus, the Saffron Crocus. I used saffron for years, to colour white rice to yellow, before I realised where it came from.
I was fascinated to see that there are about 80 different types of crocus, although only about 30 of these are cultivated. No wonder you often come across strange looking crocuses on the Greek Islands, for example.
I have yellow, purple and white crocuses in my garden. They have small, narrow, green leaves with a white stripe running down the centre strip. The flowers when closed almost look like a small Tulip. This happens daily when there is no sun around. However, when it is, lovely and sunny, these flowers open up. There will be about 6 to 8 petals, which are paler toward the centre.
The stems are about 3 to 4 inches long, depending on the variety, and the flowers are about the same height. Generally, Crocuses flower in spring although there are some autumn varieties. Some of these autumn crocuses are not strictly speaking crocuses, though.
Crocuses are great little plants for adding early colour to window boxes, planters, lawns, flowerbeds and borders. They can be planted in bulb fibre indoors in bowls. The great thing about them is they are so tough.
If they are planted in grass, you can just mow them with the grass, after they have finished flowering. You may not want them in your lovely lawn but may welcome them in a natural grassy border.
Crocuses tend to like plenty of sun, hence their pretty opening up on a sunny day. They tend to like good soil also with plenty of drainage. Still, they must be quite tough as they survived being underwater for quite a while, with our floods.
Crocuses can be propagated by dividing the corms, which grow at the foot of the plant. This is done in late summer. For me the best time to plant crocuses is in early autumn.
I usually try to stagger planting of corms and bulbs through autumn so that there are always some just about to flourish, once spring is on the way.
There are no rules with Crocuses.
You can plant them close together or not. I have some at the base of a large plant and I have these planted individually around with regular spaces between them.
I also have some that are planted in small groups of five or six together and the groups are close. If you want to split colours into groups, make sure that you buy the appropriate corms.
However, for me, I like to have the three colours growing in a mish mash of colour. Once they flower, the flowers will last a few weeks and then, all too soon, they are gone for another year. If you do not want to do anything, you can just leave them and they will wither away and faithfully return the next year.
Along with snowdrops and daffodils, Crocuses say to me 'spring has arrived and summer will be following on behind' Crocuses are recommended as an easy to care for, trouble free little plant, that can lift your spirits on a cold day.
Remember that, as with all bulbs and corms, keep them out of children's and pet's reach as ingestion can cause problems or may even poison.