Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Two of the first spring flowers to emerge in March are snowdrops and crocus. As one of the first signs of spring, they make a welcome appearance, and are much heralded by pretty much everyone despite their diminutive size.
After a long Michigan winter and a frigid February, crocus emerges while there is still snow on the ground. And although they look delicate, they are the hardiest of flowers, comfortable in temperatures well below zero. And once planted, naturalize in yards and fields, covering the ground with a blanket of white, pale lavender and iridescent blue blooms.
Crocus bulbs are available in nurseries and garden centers in the spring. Officially called corms, the bulbs are best planted in early fall. If planted to naturalize in a grassy lawn, gardeners should resist mowing in the spring until the crocus leaves have turned brown.
Once established, crocus will return year after year in larger and larger numbers. Deer, squirrels, and rabbits will leave them alone. As for pollinators, they are bee friendly. When planting avoid deep shade areas, but otherwise the corms can be planted just about anywhere in the garden or yard.
A member of the iris family, crocus are native to the Alps, the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East. According to Wikipedia, there are 90 species of crocus including the snow crocus which is the earliest to bloom. Unfortunately, they are poisonous to people and pets. So no nibbling.
Recently, a Farmers Almanac article mentioned crocus in an article about phenology, the art of looking to nature as a planting guide. Following the phenology principles, the best time to plant radishes, parsnips and spinach is when the crocus are in bloom. Wait till the forsythia bloom to plant peas, onions and lettuce. When daffodils bloom, it’s time to plant beets, carrots and chard. Potatoes are best sown when the dandelions flower.
Not surprisingly, crocus symbolizes rebirth, new beginnings and the cycle of life. It brings joy and cheerfulness to its many admirers. In Greek myth, a young man named Crocus was granted immortality by the gods who turned him into the crocus flower. Check out the many crocus myths at https://www.atozflowers.com/crocus-flower-meaning-and-symbolism/
Garden note: consider not cleaning up your yard and garden until temperatures are consistently about 50 degrees. Butterflies and other pollinators are wintering over in leaves, dead plants and twigs. Removing the debris could mean their demise.