Friday, March 19, 2010

Heirloom Crocuses

I'm starting to reap the benefits of last fall's frenzied rush to get my heirloom bulbs in the ground.

The first of the heirloom bulbs to bloom this spring were Snow Bunting crocus. Unfortunately, I don't have any good photos of those, as the rabbits ate the two biggest clumps just as they were getting showy and the dog (or an armadillo?) partially dug out the third clump. I think they'll all survive, but they sure aren't pretty subjects for photographing right now, due to no fault of their own.

The other two heirloom crocuses that are blooming are Cloth of Gold crocus (introduced to "the trade" around 1589) and the unfortunately named Negro Boy crocus (introduced in 1910). I bought all of these bulbs and many more from Old House Gardens Heirloom Flower Bulbs, if you get inspired to get some for yourself.

This dark purple beauty is the Negro Boy crocus. Note that the rabbits got to these guys too, but, fortunately for me, the flower buds were still buried deep in the crown when the leaves got so thoroughly trimmed. These beauties are quite large for crocus blooms, larger even than my modern mixed crocuses.

The golden "stars" to the left and below are Cloth of Gold crocuses; this variety dates from before 1600, so it was introduced to the European horticultural trade very early. The blooms are not quite as large as modern crocus blooms, but the crisp shape of their petals and bright gold coloring helps them shine out in the early spring landscape.

Being caught up in the romance of historical plant varieties that are in danger of being lost from modern gardens, I often give little notice to modern ones that are easily available. However, these purple crocuses that were in our yard when we bought our home 3+ years ago are absolutely stunning this I want to share them too. Who knows? Someday they'll probably be the historical variety that's in danger of being lost.
I have one more heirloom crocus variety that hasn't opened its blooms yet, so I'll have to save it for another post. So far, though, I have to say that I'm very pleased with my foray into the world of heirloom bulbs.


Anna said...

I have a hard time tricking myself into planting flowers since I vastly prefer edibles. But for some reason crocuses have a very soft spot in my heart. Then, last year, we got honeybees. This week, the girls are out foraging on the crocuses, our very first spring bloom. I guess those crocuses have a purpose in the edible garden after all! Maybe I should get serious and check out some heirlooms...

Gaia Gardener: said...

Anna, It's my understanding that you'll get better fruit and vegetable pollination if you include insect attracting flowers in your edible garden - so there really is a good reason to plant flowers!

I've added old-fashioned vining petunias and basil (which I let flower) to my vegetable gardens for years because I love the fragrances they provide as I weed, pick bugs, or harvest. Last year I added the standard marigolds to the tomato beds too.

Back to the crocuses, when I went out late this afternoon, I found 2 honeybees working on the Negro Boy crocus blossoms, so mine are attracting bees too.