Friday 21 January 2011

An old friend at Wisley

Crocus korolkowii 'Snow Leopard' at Wisley
One of several meetings this week took me to Wisley for the first time this year. It was a grey day unfortunately, but as we finished our deliberations in good time I was able to get out into the garden. Most of my time was spent in the glasshouse, enjoying the butterflies and the fabulous planting there, but I walked through the rock garden to visit the alpine house to see the treasures there too. As expected it was full of colour and interest from early-flowering bulbs and alpines, but of all of them I was most pleased to see a small pot containing a couple of crocus shoots and a large label.

The plant is Crocus korolkowii 'Snow Leopard', an effectively white-flowered version of this usually yellow species from Central Asia. It's not an albino, as it has all the dark pigment expected, but there's no trace of yellow. The dark speckles on the pale background have what my mother accurately described as a cod-skin effect, while the dark throat shows it is not a form of the the related C. alatavicus, which has a yellow throat. My interest comes from having raised it myself: seed from ordinary 'trade' C. korolkowii was sown in 1985, and this clone first flowered in 1989. Unfortunately it is not very vigorous so it's only grown by a few keen croconuts - I have lost it completely, so it was lovely to see it again, apparently happy and healthy at Wisley.

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