When we think of crocuses, we imagine the first flowers of spring, daring the cold and snow to herald the coming change of seasons. And just as crocuses start the growing season, they can also be among the final flowers of fall. You may know them as Meadow Saffron or Naked Ladies (although that name also belongs to Amaryllis belladonna)—these goblet-shaped pink–to-purple flowers that spring leafless from the ground in early autumn. They don’t last long, only two or three weeks, but their presence when all else is fading makes them worth the effort.
Thank heaven for spring bulbs! Just when I can’t bear another day of bleak winter landscape, leafless branches, dried and disintegrating foliage—along come neon-bright crocuses, dancing daffodils, and my favorite, luscious purple grape hyacinths. Not true hyacinths (which are borderline hardy in my 7,000 foot high garden), grape hyacinths are also sold under their genus Muscari. They’re native to southeastern Europe, and are widely cultivated for their early spring flowers in pink, purple, white, or a two-toned combination. Continue reading “Pretty in Purple”
Colorado gardeners are so familiar with Bearded Irises (Iris germanica) that we tend to forget there are any others. It’s true that Bearded Irises do exceptionally well in our climate and soils, but they won’t bloom for several more months. Two smaller relatives—Iris reticulata and Iris danfordia—are blooming now. Why not grow them as well?
Iris reticulata and I. danfordia are collectively known as Dwarf Irises. You may also see them labeled miniature irises or rock garden irises. Iris danfordia is a sunny yellow with brown specks; I. reticulata comes in shades of blue, purple, lavender, maroon, white, and yellow. It has bright yellow and/or white markings on the petals. This species has a number of named cultivars, including ‘Harmony’ (deep cornflower blue) and ‘J.S. Dijt’ (very deep purple). All the photos on this page are I. reticulata. (Hybrid irises typically sold as “Dutch Iris” are larger, and bloom later in the summer.)
This is the hardest time of the year for me. After growing up in California, I’m used to spring starting about now. I want to get growing now—not wait for two or three extra months! So today, in defiance of Colorado’s climate, I’m going to give you some crocus growing tips. Take that, winter!
While the snow has mostly melted, even the recent warm temperatures haven’t been enough to thaw my soil. The perennial bed looks exactly how it did a month ago—brown and lifeless. However, by blogging friend Carey (at Carey Moonbeam), across town and a smidgen lower in elevation than I am, reports she has blooming crocuses in her yard!