Spring seems to be a long time away for those of us here in Kansas. The few days of warm weather last week have given way to cold and dismal conditions yet again. I’ve seen pictures from many of you in the Pacific Northwest and the East Coast and I know you are still buried under a blanket of snow. On the other hand, my friends in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying the last weeks of summer leading into fall. Where ever you may be, integrating pollinator friendly flowers into your gardening plan is always the smart choice for the health and well-being of the bees and ultimately the enviroment.
Over the next few weeks, I will be focusing on bee-friendly flowers you can incorporate into you Spring garden plan. This week we will focus on the ever-popular crocus. As a subscriber to The Bee Queen http://www.bee-queen.com/, you will continue to recieve a bee-friendly flower of the week through the onset of Spring. If you are a fan of this page, take a moment and subscribe to my site if you would like to continue to recieve The Bee Queen’s Flower of the week series.
The crocus is one of my favorite Spring flowers. Oftentimes, you will see the crocus’s colorful blooms pushing through the last remnants of winter’s snow This bright cheerful flower seems deterined to make a brave and defiant statement heralding the onset of Spring. It’s appearance always cheers me and apparently I am not the only one to notice, as the perfume of the crocus nectar is one of the first scents to lure the bees out of their hives.
The crocus is a member of the iris family. It is a perennial meaning it comes back from year to year and one of over ninety varieties is a species of plants that grow from corms. And no, that is not a mis-spelled word. Corms are plants that grow from a bulbous tuber which helps the plant survive not only the harsh conditions of winter but the heat and or drought of late summer as well. A corm is a solid mass and is not the same as a bulb which has concentric layers. (ie. like an onion) Each corm will produce from one to five blooms.
A few other examples of plants that grow from corms are the gladiola, jack-in-the-pulpit, freesia and the banana plant.
The term crocus probably originated from the isle of Crete where the harvesting of the saffron crocus was used in the cultivation of the saffron spice. This variety of crocus is not to be confused with the common crocus and is not generally found in the wild.
Crocus come in a variety of colors and require miminal care. Mice and voles will gnaw on the corms so watch for signs fo digging around your planted beds. Deer and rabbits prefer the leaves and blooms.
The crocus corm should be planted in the fall before the ground freezes. They are pretty tolerant of location but it is best to avoid dense shade with a nothern exposure. They prefer well-drainned soil. If you have a lot of clay like we do, adding organic compost is a good idea. The corm should be planted at a depth of 3-4 inches with the pointy side up.
Crocus are best planted in clumps rather than straight lines. A grouping of 20-30 crocus are a welcoming sight in Spring and a magnet for the bees.
If you have muched your crocus grouping in the fall, late February is good time to remove that covering but have a few plastic buckets or milk jugs on hand to cover the blooms in case of a late hard freeze. And remember once the flowers have died off, do not mow the patch until the leaves have dried and turned brown. Fertilization should be done in the fall as well.
The blooms are not heat tolerant so its best to plant your crocus groupings amongst a variety of other later-blooming flowers to disguise the barren spots and provide shade and protection for the plants.
If you do not currently have crocus planted, make a plan to incorporate this hardy cheerful flower into your fall gardening schedule. Don’t worry, I’ll be happy to remind you later this summer.
Next week we will focus on Borage, another bee magnet and medicinal flowering herb to consider adding to your garden plans.