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July 15, 2011


An important part of a gardener's adventures in growing new and different plants is the delicious discovery of both the striking and the subtle differences between them.

Take Crocus, for example. Goodness knows there are a lot of different crocus! Crocus originated in the sub alpine areas of the mediterranean from Portugal all the way round through central and southern Europe to the Middle East and across to Central Asia and western China. There are over 80 species of these dwarf, colourful, clumping, bulbous perennials in this family, with a wide range of colours and blooming times.


In fact it is the blooming time that is the source of some confusion. Crocus flowering is initiated by temperature, so crocus in Europe (where the climate is milder) bloom at a different time than they do here in Canada. Back in Europe there are crocus that flower from autumn through winter and into the spring, their blooms triggered by the cooler temperatures of the late summer and fall. Here in Canada this is a relatively small group we call Autumn Crocus. These are best planted in the late summer and early fall and may even flower the same fall or early winter of planting. Leaves are produced in the spring, storing up energy for their fall flowering, and then the leaves die back. Warmer temperatures are the blooming trigger for Spring-flowering Crocus, which make up the the rest of the family.

Crocus SATIVUS - the Saffron Crocus

This is one of the oldest of cultivated plants in Spain & Portugal, where they are grown in the mountains and the tiny stamens are harvested for Saffron. The flowers are up to 3cm (1.5") across and, as you can see from the photo, you'll need lots if you are planning to collect your own Saffron.


From the Crimean hills where their bright, lavender-blue flowers carpet the hillsides every autumn. An easy-to-grow variety that will increase to form clumps.


Many gardeners confuse Autumn Crocus with Colchicum. Like Autumn Crocus, Colchicum leaf in the spring and, triggered by cooling late summer temperatures, bloom in the fall but are otherwise completely different. Colchicum bloom earlier as a rule, forming bigger clumps and producing large bulbs. An extract from this bulb is the source of Colchicine, used by plant geneticists to produce tetraploids (double chromosomes) and by pharmacologists to treat gout. All parts of the Colchicum are poisonous if eaten and because of this: utterly squirrel proof!

Colchicum will also flower even if not planted but must be in the ground as soon as possible. They aren't as fussy about soil as crocus and are perfectly happy in average garden soil where they will form a nice patch year after year. They are particularly effective when grown through ground covers.


This is the deepest coloured Colchicum we offer and my favourite because of its chequered blooms.


Snow white flowers with golden stamens on dwarf 10 - 15cm stalks. One of the hardiest of the Colchicums and super easy to grow.


Looks just like a double-flowered waterlily with large, multipetalled blooms in lilac and pink. It forms a nice clump over the years. Up to 15cm (6") tall.§ion=SFB§ion=SFB 




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