Fragrance of Crocus-E.S. Rodhe

 
 
Crocus and snowdrops
 
I am writing for the first time this year out of 
doors, on one of those glorious sunny days which always 
come in February and for which one is so much more 
grateful than for a whole week of summer sun. And 
I have just been counting the number of flowers on 
the largest clump of golden crocuses (C. vermis) by the 
apple trees in our garden. There are at least seventy-eight 
flowers fully out, though how they have managed to crowd 
themselves into a space measuring only about 9 inches by 
12 is little short of a miracle. The flowers are as large as 
any grown singly and very long-stalked (some of them 
certainly 5 or 6 inches long), and, pushing aside the fully 
expanded flowers, one could see there were masses more 
coming on. When I came there were eight or nine bees 
working at the flowers, and watching the bees for some 
time it was delightful to see how often the same bees, 
after a hurried visit to smaller clumps near by, returned to 
feast on the riches spread before them on the largest 
clumps. The words of an Elizabethan madrigal come into 
my mind : 

1 like the bee with Toil and Pain 
Fly humbly o'er the flow'ry Plain 
And with the Busy Throng 
The little sweets my Labours gain 
I work into a song.' 

The scent of the crocuses would be almost imperceptible 
from the single flowers, but from the masses it is warm and 
exquisite, and in the sunlight the clumps look like masses 
of translucent gold caught not out of the sunlight but 
out of the sun itself. It is curious how colour seems to 
alter the character of a crocus flower. Yellow and golden 
crocuses look almost riotously happy, but all the mauve 
varieties have a placid dreamy appearance. Of the very 
early-flowering varieties C. imperati is always described 
as scented, but it does not seem to be more scented than 
some of the other varieties, especially the commonest 
of the yellow and gold-coloured kinds. From the point of 
view of decorative effect nothing touches the Dutch 
yellow crocus (C. vernus). No one knows its origin. It is 
probably of garden origin, for it is sterile, and it has never 
been found growing wild. It increases by throwing off 
little corms. If planted in grass the grass should never be 
mown till the crocus leaves have quite withered, otherwise 
the corms will suffer badly. Though the bees love crocuses 
grown in clumps the birds do not seem to attack them as 
much as crocuses planted singly, or if they do, their 
depredations are not so apparent. What the birds love 
in them is the tiny drop of nectar to be found in each 
flower. What with one thing and another crocuses have 
many enemies. Field mice, the mischievous grey squirrel 
and rats all enjoy eating the corms, and if planted near 
the surface nothing will stop pheasants pecking them out.