|Crocus atticus subsp. sublimis 'Tricolor'
At intervals of 30-40 years, for the past two centuries, a major monograph on the genus Crocus has appeared in English. The sequence starts in 1809 with Adrian Haworth's 'On the cultivation of crocuses with a short account of the different species known at present', followed by William Herbert's 'A History of the species of Crocus' in 1847. George Maw's beautifully illustrated Monograph of the Genus Crocus appeared in 1886, and remained the dominant botanical monograph for nearly a century. For gardeners, however, the most useful and comfortable reference was E.A. Bowles's A Handbook of Crocus and Colchicum, which interspersed personal experience with botanical fact in a charming and very readable way. It first appeared in 1924, with a revised edition in 1952. In 1982 Brian Mathew published his The Crocus, a then up-to-date account of the genus, and although now showing its age, it remains an invaluable reference. Each of these, and innumerable lesser publications, has built up our knowledge of this remarkable and beautiful genus, whose morphological complexity is belied by the apparent similarity of flower shape in most of its members.
|One of my Crocus tommasinianus x C. vernus selections, also illustrated in the book.
This is a botanically-minded gardener's view of crocuses, in the Bowlesian tradition, rather than a botanical monograph like those of Maw or Mathew, but Jānis has the advantage over all his predecessors of having seen the vast majority of the plants he describes in the wild. This gives him a unique perspective into variation within the genus, and within species. With a reasonably generous allocation of photographs, this variation is illustrated as never before in a published work, with the images being of uniformly excellent quality. I note, however, that the image labelled C. korolkowii 'Snow Leopard' is of a different clone to the true entity, featured here last week. On the other hand, one of the pictures (of a Crocus tommasinianus x C. vernus seedling) was taken in this garden, and Jānis is kind enough to mention that he has seen the extreme variability in colour possible in C. tommasinianus here too.
|Crocus heuffelianus selections made by Jānis Rukšāns
|Pinkish selection of C. tommasinianus
|Crocus "chrysanthus" 'Cream Beauty'