Thursday 9 March 2017

The Crocus

If you associate a colour with spring the top answer would probably be yellow. Behind that I think purple would get quite a few votes and that is entirely down to the crocus.

A single crocus blossom ought to be enough to convince our heart that springtime, no matter how predictable, is somehow a gift, gratuitous, gratis, a grace.”
- David Steindl-Rast

Different varieties of crocuses have their own Latin names but crocus itself comes from the Greek word 'krokos'. This is the ancient name used for the saffron crocus now known as Crocus sativus. The saffron derived from the stigma of the crocus is highly prized for use in culinary dishes. During the time of the Black Death between 1347-50 saffron was used as a medicine to try and combat the plague. Crocuses are particularly suited to light soil and these growing conditions can be found in parts of Essex. The heritage of growing crocuses in Essex can be still be seen today through the town name of Saffron Walden. The town's crest incorporates crocuses in its design.

If you are wanting a display of crocuses for next year buy the bulbs in the autumn for planting then. Dig a hole of around 10cm (4 inches) in depth and then place a single bulb or corm, as they are known, in each hole. Make sure each one is placed 'nose' up before covering with earth and watering in. Crocuses often expand in number themselves so try to divide any clumps every 4-5 years.

Growing crocuses in lawns is called 'naturalising'. Make sure the spot has good drainage as crocuses don't like wet conditions. The bright colours of the blooms look especially stunning against the green backdrop of the lawn. Wait until the crocuses have died down before you give the lawn its first mow of the year.

“You might think that after thousands of years of coming up too soon and getting frozen, the crocus family would have had a little sense knocked into it.”
- Robert Benchley

There are over 90 species of crocus of varying sizes, shapes and colours. The sight of them in gardens, lawns and along the bottom of hedging usually heralds the beginning of spring. There are also autumn flowering varieties but it is when they bring us out of the gloom of winter that they are most appreciated.

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