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

November 26th, 2008
Crocus speciosus

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

photo: maiden grass
Maiden grass. 2007 has been an excellent year for ornamental grasses.

November 13th, 2007
Week 45: 11/5 – 11/11

Dateline: 2010
Temperatures have been quite chilly in the mornings, dipping to the high 30s and low 40s. Our coldest morning of the fall was Saturday (11/6) when our first freeze warning was issued. I didn’t even hear about it until after the fact but temperatures fell only 38 at Camp Mabry and 39 at Bouldin. After 10AM, it warms up to the 70s. The days are sunny and very clear with brilliant blue skies. Great weather for digging out horseherb and dividing the yellow heirloom irises. The bog garden is taking shape.

It continues to be very, very dry and I spend a lot time watering bluebonnet seedlings. I haven’t even started the larkspur yet. I’m waiting for the leaves to fall.

Some leaves have fallen from the cedar elms and pecans but I’m still waiting for some sunshine. The red oak in the back has had a bumper crop of acorns this year. They grind up well in the mulcher/grinder. The red oak in the front has dropped fewer nuts but those are twice as large. I find how different they are interesting.

Both ‘New Dawn’ roses have had excellent fall bloom this year. The ‘Red Cascade’ rose is also the best it’s ever been. Even ‘Mermaid’ (which I’m trying to hack back until some semblance of control) has a flower or two. Four years ago this week I bought my replacement ‘Ducher’. It was wonderful this spring and then it died of cane dieback, too.

We picked some cilantro for chicken tortilla soup (11/7). I haven’t planted the winter vegetable garden yet.

First flower: cat’s whiskers (11/7).

Dateline: 2007
At the beginning of the week it seemed that November weather had indeed arrived–cool, cloudy, dark, and gloomy. What lovely weather for snuggling under a blanket with a cup of tea and reading gardening books. The high temperature Tuesday (11/6) was actually 69F, but that was at 3AM. The temperature dropped during the day so that it was colder at 4PM (59F) than at 3AM (69F). Also it was a drop of almost 20 degrees from the previous day. As the week progressed, the sun came back and the high temperatures were back in the mid-80s. Warm air is blowing up from the Gulf, so the air is quite balmy. This is one of the features about Austin weather that I like. We have one or two days of cool weather so that we can work ourselves into a holiday mood and then it warms up again so that we can get some real work done.

Other signs of fall: the cedar elm leaves began falling in earnest. I’m going to have to buy a new mulching mower this week. The leaves on the Japanese persimmon and the ‘Catawba’ crape myrtles are changing color. The paperwhites began to nose up and by the end of the week, I saw some Narcissus tazetta x italicus sprouting. I better get those bulbs in the fridge planted. The banana plants are starting to yellow and I’ll need to wrap them up soon. The aloe vera by the front walk has some cold damage. I’ll have to bring the potted ones in. And this year, finally, one branch of the weeping yaupon holly has red berries.

I did manage to plant out some violas. The lettuce and swiss chard are up but the raccoons and squirrels keep digging in my seedbeds. More nasturtium is up. A lot of cilantro is sprouting but I’m still waiting on the larkspur, bluebonnets, batchelor buttons, and love-in-a-mist. We need rain for those to sprout. In fact, looking at last year’s photo, I can’t believe that the four o’clocks were still blooming this time last year. I tore those out last month with the tomatoes and cypress vine, all of which were dry and weedy looking and long past flowering stage.

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