November 26th, 2008
Crocus speciosus

photo: Crocus Speciosus Cassiope
Crocus speciosus speciosus. November 25, 2008

Dateline: 2008
I finally followed through on my resolve to buy more fall crocuses and purchased 96 Crocus speciosus bulbs from McClure & Zimmerman ($23.95) and planted them on September 6, 2008. This time I bought the Crocus speciosus speciosus which the catalog assured me was the “earliest autumn flowering crocus to bloom…” with a “profusion of deep violet-blue flowers”.

The first six bloomed on November 23, 2008. I’m not sure what happened to the other 90. I suspect squirrels. I did cover them with wire after I noticed that the squirrels had been digging them up, taking a bite, tossing them to the side and digging for more. Hmmm. $23.95 for 96 teeny-tiny bulbs seems economical; for 6, not so much.

In Adventures with Hardy Bulbs, Louise Beebe Wilder is enthusiastic about the autumn flowering Crocus speciosus. It “is infinitely worth growing, all its ways are seemly, all its forms lovely.” For color in the garden, she much prefers it to the saffron crocus, C. sativus.

The flowers of [C. speciosus] are distinguished by their remarkable (for a Crocus) blue tone–it is the bluest of all the Crocuses–and they are very large, the outer segments marked with fine veining, while the stigmata are conspicuous for their size, and the fact that they are divided into a mass of orange-scarlet threads. It is the first autumnal species to flower, and it is always startling when it comes bubbling through the earth, innocent of leaves, usually after a warm rain in late September.” — LBW

Dateline: 2007
Despite my failing to buy more fall-flowering crocuses, as I vowed to do four years ago, two little blue jewels revealed themselves among the orange cosmos today.

photo: Crocus speciosus Cassiope
Crocus speciosus. December 4, 2007.

In my garden, the autumn crocuses usually bloom, not in September but, in mid-November. I was disappointed when none did this year and thus even more delighted than usual when a late bloom surprised me today. Despite being described as the largest fall crocus, they are a tiny delight. I’ve never had any luck with the far showier spring-blooming crocuses.

photo: Crocus speciosus Cassiope
Crocus speciosus. Austin, Texas. December 4, 2007.

Dateline: 2004
photo: Crocus speciosus Conqueror
Crocus speciosus. November 11, 2004.

This one has different petals than all the others I’ve photographed. One is ‘Conqueror’ and the other is ‘Cassiope’. I know longer know which is which. When I buy more I’ll have to buy some of each and keep them in separate parts of the garden.

Dateline: 2003
One little crocus opened today, and four more promise to follow tomorrow. I must remember to buy some more next year. Even though, they disappear (maybe stolen by squirrels?), they bring unexpected pleasure every November.
photo: Crocus speciosus Cassiope
Crocus speciosus. November 11, 2003.

I remember telling a coworker once that I had planted 100 crocuses. He thought I must have a yard full of flowers. But they are only about four inches tall. It would take 1000 of them to make a drift that anyone other than a gardener, who is always looking for the little things under leaves and among the weeds, to notice.

photo: Crocus speciosus Cassiope
Crocus speciosus. November 10, 2003.

Dateline: 2002
One of the first bulbs I bought for the meadow garden was a type of fall-blooming crocus, Crocus speciosus. In the fall of 1996, I planted ‘Cassiope’. And later I planted ‘Conqueror’. They both bloomed beautifully in their first years and have waned in each succeeding year. However, every fall a few return to surprise and delight.

photo: Crocus Speciosus CassiopeCrocus speciosus. November 6, 2002

Today, five bloomed. I think they are the ‘Cassiope’ since those have yellow throats. They have been described variously as sky blue, pale blue, and aniline blue.

photo: Crocus Speciosus CassiopeCrocus speciosus. November 6, 2002

by M Sinclair Stevens

20 Responses to post “Crocus speciosus”

  1. From LouLou:

    I enjoy the flower “portraits” you share from your garden. Do you use a digital camera for the close ups of flowers? The crocuses are lovely. Do they have fragrance?

  2. From mstevens:

    For most of the photographs I’m taking these days, I use a digital camera: the Nikon Coolpix 4300. It’s good for closeups in bright light, but I have problems using it to shoot landscapes in dappled light. The resolution, however, is fantastic. The resulting file is usually 1.2MB–too large to put on the site because the download time would be minutes. So I reduce the size to 320px by 240 px–to about 30K. The result, of course, does not have the same picture or color quality.

    Before I received the Coolpix (for my birthday) I was using a digital video camera, the Canon Acura, The two bottom photos on this page are stills from the video camera.

    For some very early photos, I used a 35mm camera and then scanned the results. I still like it best for certain effects and for shooting the landscape (as opposed to individual flowers). However, the cost of film, film processing, and the wait to have photos developed has put me off 35mm.

    These crocuses don’t have a scent. They are so small you have to get on your hands and knees to see them this close. No problem for me, since I’m on my hands and knees in the garden most of the time.

  3. From LouLou:

    Thanks for the camera info. I first found your website Googling about oxblood lilies. Have the oxblood lilies bloomed already?

  4. From mstevens:

    In Austin, the oxblood lilies bloom the first few weeks of September–sometimes earlier or later depending on whether we have rain in late August.

    Here are some links to photos of them in my garden:

    * Zanthan Gardens | Week 37

    * Plant Profile: Rhodophiala bifida

  5. From Pam/Digging:

    Beautiful. I’m amazed you could find the little guys under the cosmos.

    That particular clump of cosmos is quite short…under a foot high. And the blue of the autumn crocuses is quite intense. They really popped out amidst the orange of the cosmos. — mss

  6. From Rachel from Austin:

    Those crocuses are so beautiful and dainty. I must add them to my wishlist.

    I bought these from McClure & Zimmerman, my favorite supplier of bulbs. They carry many unusual and heirloom varieties. — mss

  7. From Yolanda Elizabet:

    Gorgeous! What fun that they decided to pop up after all. 😉 I’ve never tried the autumn crocus before. Should try it too as they look very pretty. The spring ones do very well over here. The Dutch climate is very good for many bulbs and crocuses do great here. There’s only one little problem: I have to wait at least 3 months before the spring crocuses pop up their pretty little heads here.

    I’ll try to keep the flower photos coming for all you cold-climate gardeners. I know how much I appreciate visiting your gardens during Austin’s hot, dry summmers. — mss

  8. From Frank from NYC:

    Somehow I discovered your site. I too love the autumn crocus, but I don’t have any-yet. Two things intrigue me about your long-running site. One is that I lived in Las Cruces, NM for awhile and your site reminds me of what I grew there and two is that you stick to gardening which so many gardening sites do not. Also, I’m interested in plants that grow in your climate that can be adapted to NYC, especially zero-watering plants. Great site.

    Hi, Frank. My Mom is from New Mexico–from the Raton/Cimarron/Springer area. Central Texas is quite different from New Mexico or even west Texas. The dirt here is black clay over limestone. We get more rain and are more humid. In our wet years, like summer 2007, some xeriscape plants rot. However, we are able to grow many of the same plants: agaves, cactus, sages, yuccas. When looking for plants that thrive in your locale it’s always best to ask people there. I don’t know how cold hardy my plants can be (the ground never freezes here) or how much protection they’d need during a NYC winter. For more information on xeriscape plants, I recommend checking with Water When Dry, a master gardener in Phoenix.

    I’m glad you enjoy my gardening site. I do try hard to keep on topic; I indulge my passions for other topics on blogs elsewhere. I’ll be very interested in checking out your NYC garden. — mss

  9. From Lisa at Greenbow:

    I just loved seeing your fall crocus. I am the opposite of you in that I have better luck with spring blooming crocus. I had some fall bloomers but they faded away. My spring bloomers keep reproducing which is nice.

    I had a dream just the night before about a field with great drifts of crocus blooming. They were all different colors. I always am so happy when I dream in color. It doesn’t always happen.

    Maybe I should try some spring-blooming crocuses again. — mss

  10. From ESP, Austin:

    Your crocus pictures remind me of being back in my home country, England…more specifically around large highway roundabouts where it seemed this was the mass spring planting of choice. Amazing sight though in full bloom! Love this plant, and yes you would need a few hundred to make a visible statement…keep planting! (smiles)


  11. From Don:

    Keep an eye on your garden; I’ve found that some of those speciosus bulbs get replanted by the squirrels, and start popping up in odd places. Unfortunately, the squirrels’ idea of sharing is, eat four, replant one.

  12. From Amy:

    The blue colour of these is absolutely heavenly. You must be so disappointed to have so many of the bulbs so missing though. It must have been a lot of work to plant all of those (my knees ache just thinking about it!)

    P.S. I’m having a fun Christmas giveaway on my blog this week and would love it if you popped over and put in an entry. I think it will be a lot of fun 🙂

  13. From Jan@ThanksFor2Day:

    I’m not entirely certain fall crocuses even grow around here in Northern Va. As far as I know, yours are the first I’ve seen…not having been aware that there’s another species from those that bloom in spring! The blue and purple shades are some of my favorite colors! Jan

  14. From Annie in Austin:

    The color of the Autumn Crocus is lovely and the form charming, MSS. Too bad I don’t live closer to you – maybe I could talk the squirrels into replanting them in my garden! It’s certainly an “odd place”.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. From Gail:

    They are quite lovely flowers…I planted mine this fall but haven’t seen any…yet! I remain hopeful. I find that to really see most flowers we need to look them in the eye….so on hands and knees it is. Gail

  16. From Aiyana:

    Lovely photos! Maybe the rest will come up later. That sometimes happens with wildflowers here. I’ll get a few really early ones, and nothing for a month, and then millions!

  17. From Zac & his Water Garden Plants:

    I never heard of autumn crocus. Those are some amazing photographs!

    This is just one reason I call squirrles tree rats. The only ones I care for are a family of albino ones that live on the street of my parents (120 miles away, those ones are cute).

  18. From Lucy Corrander:

    Such unplifting colours!

    Lucy Corrander

  19. From joey:

    This is one fall bulb that most forget … and shouldn’t! A great reminder with lovely photos.

  20. From Pam:

    Oh – these look so beautiful! I’ve always stayed clear of crocuses in my zone 8b garden – but perhaps I shouldn’t? This gives me hope! (I know that only have six bloom was disappointing – but boy, they are certainly a treat for the rest of us!).