I look forward to sunshine in early spring, triggering the flowers of crocus to open wide, but which ones to grow? Wikipaedia states there are 90 species, while the 2010 edition of Janis Ruksan’s “Complete Guide” lists 97. I read recently of another three having been identified, so we are now up to one hundred. Plus all the hybrids, either naturally occurring, or contrived by plant breeders – the choice is extensive. Most crocus need a sunny position in well-drained soil (although there are a few exceptions). You have probably noticed that if the weather is cloudy or wet, the flowers stay closed. You have probably also noticed the flowers tend to flop. For this reason, I tend to avoid the big, blowsy hybrids as they seem to spend more time on their sides than upright. Some of the specie ones are very small, and would get swamped or lost in the open garden. So that leaves us with some of the larger-flowered specie crocus, or mid-sized hybrids. I’ve picked one of each of the typical flower colours – white, cream, yellow, mauve (including a pinky mauve), and purple – which I think are the best. I grow them in a sheltered sunny position, in a slightly heavy soil improved with generous amounts of horticultural grit.
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Ard Schenk’ is the first to open for me. It is a good clean white, with a yellow throat. Give it a gritty soil but don’t overfeed it – it prefers a poor soil.
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ is another colour form of the same species. This one has a golden throat, and “brownish green bases.”
For a yellow, I grow crocus ancyrensis. This comes into bloom a few days later than the previous two, but the flowering periods still overlap. ‘Golden Bunch’ is a more floriferous form.
It’s back to crocus chrysanthus for my favoured mauve form, a cultivar called ‘Blue Pearl.’
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Etruscus Zwanenburg’ has more pink in the flower colour. You will probably have noted by now I’m a fan of C. chrysanthus, a very good crocus for the garden.
My final choice is Crocus tommasinianus ‘Whitewell Purple.’ The species can be a pest if conditions suit it, self-seeding all over the place. So far, ‘Whitewell Purple’ seems well behaved, which is good as I like the two tone effect of the flowers.
So that’s my pick for now, but I’m sure there are many others I will discover in the future that warrant a place in the garden.