Crocus speciosus - plant of the month November 2012
Crocus speciosus, the 'showy' crocus is one of the best of the autumn Crocus for the open garden from September onwards. Requiring little or no maintanence, it will thrive in rock-gardens, borders or even naturalise in grass with seemingly no preference between acid or alkaline soils, though it dislikes excessive moisture in Summer. It is widespread in northern Turkey, seemingly favouring shady spots in clearings in Abies and Rhododendron woods and beech forests.
Crocus speciosus is closely related to the other commonly grown C. pulchellus (the subject of a previous AGS plant portrait) but is easily identified by its yellow anthers (white in C. pulchellus). It also lacks the deep yellow or orange throat of C. pulchellus ( except in ssp xantholaimos which is rarely encountered in the garden). Its flower shape, variation in colour forms and markings make it very difficult to confuse the two when seen together.
As can be seen from the images below. a number of forms are at present in cultivation and available from bulb dealers - from dark violet-purple petals with speckled and/or striped exteriors to pure white.
Crocus speciosus cultivars
(descriptions mainly from Bowles and Mathew)
Aino - an improved form of ‘Oxonian’
Aitchisonii - large outer segments 3” or more in length, paler than type and less veined, pale shade of lavender inside, almost white outside in bud
Albus - white, Dutch raised cultivar
Artabir - pale violet blue with conspicuous purple veining and creamy white throat
Cassiope - large bluish lavender with pale creamy yellow throat
Conqueror - very large flowers of deep sky blue
Globosus - smallish flowers in blue shade
Pollux - large pale violet blue with silvery exterior
Oxonian - very large, up to 4” deep purple blue
R. D Trotter - large pure white
(with thanks to David Stephens)
Type species - variable but the ‘normal’ trade form is large flowered mid lilac blue speckled darker outside with prominent much branched orange style