Breaking The Ice


I am sure you can spot the dismay on Howard’s face-he had just discovered that his favorite water dish/fountain was iced over a couple days ago.  This shocked him-but he did go ahead and break the ice.  There are those spring plants that brave the vagaries of Michigan weather, including waking up to the ice.  Those tiny corms one plants by the twenty-fives or hundreds in the fall have a persistence in the spring that belies their small size; the crocus is one of the best known harbingers of spring. 

Last spring came in fits and starts.  These crocus “Pickwick” had sent up leaves and then flowers-only to have to endure the above weather.  The crocus season can be short or long; the weather calls the shots. Both the leaves and the flowers are covered in a waxy cuticle-that protects them from a late winter blast.  The species crocus-my favorite is crocus sieberi- are less robust in their form than the crocus vernus hybrids, but equally as weather tolerant.

I have a modest patch that came with the house fifteen years ago.  They thrive and increase slowly-via seeding, I am sure-and really demand nothing from me.  Like most gardeners, when they finally appear, I wonder why I did not plant scads more the previous fall.  Maybe this coming fall I will do better. 

Of the large flowered hybrids, Pickwick is my favorite.  The stripes are great; the intensely orange stamens are even better.  In a great spring, I will have them the better part of two weeks, maybe more. 

Their small flowers make planting them en masse a good idea.  This area of my garden has other spring flowers to come-like phlox divaricata, and a planting of European ginger that seems finally to be taking hold.  Later in the year, the hostas hold forth into the fall.  The crocus do not seem to be deterred by the companionship to come.  It seems fitting that a perennial as ephemeral as this would ask nothing in the way of care.  They just show up to the party every year, regular as rain.

The grassy foliage is distinguised by a white stripe down the center.  You really do have to get down on the ground to fully appreciate how beautiful a plant they are. I have not put my new knee to the kneeling test yet-but maybe tonight.  My weather forecast-81 degrees today, and 32 degrees overnight.  Can you hear me sighing?  If not tonight, I may need to wait until next year to get as close as I would like. I am sure my PT would approve of the gesture-he is determined to get me down on that knee.

However, crocus are not at all bad from overhead, either.  It is important to place them where they can be properly appreciated. I leave this part of the garden cleanup until after all of my spring plants have come and gone.  I think they like all the debris that seems to appear in spring, no matter how well I clean up in the fall.  Part of their charm is how jewel like they are, laying in their compost bed.

Should you have no crocus, or any of the small spring bloomers from eranthis to muscari, snowdrops and chionodoxa, now is the time to decide where to plant them come fall.  I will take pictures of some spots, and hope for a small bulb plant fest come October.  Should you think of it, will you try to remind me?

So many beautiful things are coming my way; the crocus are only the beginning.