There can’t be many more impressive sights on a sunny winter’s day than sheets of colourful crocus opening their blooms skywards to greet the light.
Whether naturalised in short grassland or crowding the fronts of borders, crocus are guaranteed to lift flagging spirits.
The early flowers are also useful food sources for early insects.
While a mass spectacle is truly astonishing, a close inspection of individual flowers is rewarding as the flowers are often multi-coloured and jazzily striped, or netted, in darker tones.
Breeding between species and selection of distinct forms has resulted in a wide range of varieties.
For best results, particularly if naturalising in grassland, select varieties which have a vigorous habit and are weather resistant.
Varieties of C. chrysanthus and C. tommasinianus provide the most reliable displays, especially for mixing around snowdrops and early daffodils as part of the succession of late winter bulbs.
Left undisturbed, they’ll also bulk up quickly and colonise the surrounding ground to create drifts. If planting in grassland, allow the foliage to naturally dieback and the new cormlets to establish before cutting the turf, usually six to eight weeks after flowering.
Crocus prefer being sited in full sun, in soil that’s moist, but well-drained in winter and drier in summer when the corms are dormant.
For impact and to create unity, it’s best to use a single variety in any one area, rather than a mixture, unless you prefer a jangle of colour.
Crocus should be planted at the end of summer into early autumn, planting the corms at two to three times their depth, about 7.5-10cm apart.
Ones to try....
C. chrysanthus ‘Advance’: An old variety with a lovely blend of apricot within and pale purple on the outside.
C. biflorus ‘Blue Pearl’: This one has fragrant blossoms of pale blue with a yellow throat.
C. tommasinianus ‘Roseus’: A narrow-petalled variety with starry blossoms in a pretty shade of pink.
C. tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’: It’s not a giant or ruby coloured but this purple-flowered variety is vigorous!
C. sieberi ‘Tricolor’: An eye-catching three-toned variety that’s just as attractive in bud, as it is in full flower.
C. chrysanthus ‘Zwanenburg Bronze’: Compact variety has fragrant yellow blooms, suffused bronze on the outside.