Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crocus oreocreticus

The little charmer above is Crocus oreocreticus, now in its fifth season here. It's a very sweetly scented member of the saffron crocus group. I was away from home yesterday, and didn't see this one coming. So it was a real pleasure to find these in bloom today. Today I noticed buds of Crocus medius on the way up, too.

If you don't grow the autumn-flowering crocuses, or if you know only C. kotschyanus (C. zonatus) or C. speciosus, then you are missing out on a big part of the crocus season. In mild years crocuses of one sort or another bloom from late September until sometime in March. If the winter is harsh, there will be a gap in mid-winter, but the potential for a crocus season nearly six months long is there.

In most years, the November blooming sorts are a sure thing. The December blooming ones are a bit chancier, and the January crocus are in many years as much a thing to be desired as something experienced in fact. The plants themselves are hardy, so if bitter weather spoils the bloom one year, the plants will be back in future years to try again.

Place them carefully: be sure they have plenty of sun. And group them with some thought: at the end of the growing season, there will not be much else in bloom, so give them the few companions available to make a spot of late year color in the garden.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November harmonies

Here’s a combination which comes close to bringing the season of substantial outdoor flowers to a close. So long as the temperatures remain above freezing, there will be something outside to admire, but as we move towards the end of the year the flowers get smaller and smaller and closer to the ground.

Closer to the ground does not describe the two shown here. The Camellia sasanqua are now a twelve foot presence in the garden. The monkshood – this one is Aconitum carmichaelii – grows to four or five feet high. At the tops of those tall stems there are smallish clusters four or five inches long of blooms. This is the one monkshood which does well in our climate. (Aconitum uncinatum, native to western Maryland, is not an easy garden plant in my experience. ) The disproportion between the length of the stems and the comparatively small clusters of bloom has probably kept it out of the ranks of really popular flowers, but for this gardener its season of bloom keeps it in the front ranks.