Just when we start to long for a touch of colour in the garden, the pointed, tightly furled buds of the snow crocus [often called ‘specie’ crocus] push up and burst open to show beautifully veined, uplifted cups in white, yellow, lilac and purple mixtures! In fact, it is not uncommon to see early-flowering crocuses standing proud through a light late snowfall.
Later in the season the large hybridized “Giant Dutch crocuses” hold their own with the other showy spring flowers. Their flowers appear from spring to early summer, but during mild winters they can bloom as early as February.
At the other end of the year, the autumn crocus – including the saffron crocus (crocus sativus) – reacts to autumn rain and the cooling of the soil by bursting into large papery mauve flowers. They are particularly suitable for the rock garden or small containers and will self seed if left undisturbed.
The colchicum, confusingly is also sometimes called the autumn crocus because its large crocus-like-flowers, which bloom before the leaves, only appear in spring (also called Naked Ladies). The flowers range from mauve to white with bright centres, and despite looking delicate last incredibly well. Plant 10cm (4″) deep and 25cm (10″) apart in well dug soil. Congested clumps should be lifted, divided and replanted immediately after the foliage has died down. However, beware this plant is toxic.
Left undisturbed in a sunny position, in good gritty, well-drained garden soil, crocuses increase readily. Some spring varieties produce an abundance of very large flowers, particularly suitable for naturalising in grass and woodland. Plant 5cm (2″) deep and 7cm (3″) apart.