Crocus are members of the Iris family and are native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia.
They are among the oldest of the cultivated bulbs. The original crocus was a fall blooming
type, Crocus sativus, grown for its saffron in Palestine during King Solomon's time and used
as an important commercial product by various ancient civilizations. Within the first few
centuries of the new millennium, the Romans brought crocus to Britain, and by 1330,
C.sativus was introduced into Essex via a commercial venture that made yellow dyes.
The spring flowering Crocus varieties have never been cultivated for non-gardening purposes,
but they have enjoyed enormous popularity as garden flowers. In fact, C. vernus is one of the
bulbs credited with starting Holland's bulb business. Crocus are so much beloved that they
were among the first bulbs brought to North America by the earliest settlers. Within a few
decades of the founding of the first settlements, crocus were being grown throughout New
England, Virginia and Maryland.
The large flowering crocus also known as "The Wild Crocus of the Alps" were discovered
around 1875. Their large flowers make them real show stoppers when forced and placed
in a pot for midwinter blossoms.
Crocus prefer a light, fertile, alkaline soil and good sunlight. Digging them up and dividing
them every three years is highly recommended. They are good naturalizers and good for
forcing. Deer usually do not like them, but rodents do. Some gardeners have reported
that squirrels do not eat or "replant" any of the C. tommasinianus varieties. Plant 4-5" deep
and 3-4" apart.