Crocus chrysanthus (snow crocus) are a welcome sight in the early spring garden. Living up to their name, they rise up at the edge of the melting snow, bringing lively spring colours when they are most appreciated. Their little flowers would get lost in the summer garden, but they make a big splash in the early spring, when the leftover fall leaves are still on the ground, and most perennials are just dried stems. These bulbs have been very hardy in zone 3, even through the coldest winter.
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Gipsy Girl’ is a sunny yellow, with maroon stripes underneath, for a little flair. The buds are beautiful, with the stripes showing up well. These showy blooms were the first in my garden this year, so if you are looking for a plant to extend your garden season, these are a great choice.
When the Gipsy Girl flowers open their petals, they form sunny yellow cups. A group of these are very eye-catching in the garden, despite only rising a few cm (inches) above the ground.
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’ is another yellow snow crocus with brownish purple stripes. The stripes are more slender and not quite as pronounced as Gipsy Girl.
Because the stripes are on the outside of the petals, they are most visible in the bud stage, or when closed up in the evening.
When they open, the inside of the ‘Fuscotinctus’ flower has sunny yellow petals, and a darker ring in the middle. These petite plants make a bright grouping.
The flowers of Crocus chrysanthus ‘Cream Beauty’ are a softer, light yellow butter colour. You couldn’t get a more cheery colour for spring.
Here, the ‘Cream Beauty’ flowers are just flaring out their buds.
The ‘Cream Beauty’ flowers were the third ones to open their petals. All of the snow crocus colours coordinate beautifully together, and are overlapping their bloom time.
I love the these dainty Cream Beauty flowers, as well as the slender green leaves, with the typical silver crocus stripe down the middle of each leaf.
The above photo of Cream Beauty flowers show the extra sunny colour of the inside petals, and the paler colour of the outside of the petals.
These Cream Beauty flowers look like they were carved by a chef from butter. The outer petals flare slightly, and the inner ones are ready to open.
The Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ buds are a pale lavender blue, like the one in the centre of the picture above. The flowers are very pale, and appear white on top in the bright light. These were the second flowers to open up, right after the Gipsy Girl crocus.
I’m enchanted by how the sun shines right through the petals of these flowers, showing the shadows of the anthers and stigma within. It gives then an ethereal appearance.
This photo show the pretty flower clusters, with the petals halfway open, and still pointing up.
Here is another view of a Blue Pearl group, with diminutive flowers facing up to the sun.
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Snow Bunting’ is a pure white colour. These buds are just starting to open. Nine of these were included free with an order I placed, and I planted them on their own. However, they need more bulb companions, since they are so small. Still, they are pretty and spring like.
Here is the Snow Bunting group, with the elfin petals opening for the sun.
The small bulbs look great in large groups, since they need the massing effect to be visible from a distance. I have from 9 to 60 of each type of snow crocus, and the larger groups really show up best. However, even a few bulbs placed up close, where they can be admired, give an instant spring lift. They are about 8 cm (3 in) tall when in bloom, so it’s a good thing they flower before the taller perennials are up.
The petals of the crocus flowers fold up at night, and when it is cloudy, and then open up to greet the sun. I have them planted in an area that doesn’t get too shady until the trees leaf out next month, so the bulbs are able to open for most of the day. They are planted under a lilac, and in between hardy Rozanne and Johnson’s Blue geraniums, which haven’t come up yet. Right now in April, the crocus have all the space to themselves. As they die back, the perennial geraniums will grow up to cover the decaying bulb foliage, and the lilac will leaf out above.
The snow crocus get the garden off to a quick start, when most other spring bulbs are just starting to peek up, and most perennials are playing it safe under ground. They shrug off the cool air, melting snow, and old leaves, in a hurry to brighten the newly exposed garden. I really appreciate them in a short season gardening zone, since they lengthen the bloom time, when you just can’t wait any longer for the gardening season to begin. Even if their extra early flowers get covered in snow, they are still worth it, for the brief glimpse of soft petals and spring joy. I have a number of the small crocus planted in my lawn, too.
You can see these crocus with more open petals in this followup post.