or Things to Remember
A lot can be forgotten in a year: the names and terms of all the US presidents;* the capital of Mauritania;* what that one key in the utility drawer belongs to. Some things are a relief to forget; some are more or less irrelevant (not meaning any offense, presidents and Mauritanians); some are kind of a nuisance (what does that key belong to?). Some, though, end up being unexpected pleasures. My favorite things to forget every year are the fall-blooming crocuses, because they have such charming ways of recalling themselves to your attention.
Well, really, just the one way. They bloom. But that's pretty charming. It's a pity we can't do that ourselves when we need someone's attention—so much more appealing than "Ahem."
I've grown two kinds of FBC's before, Crocus speciosus and C. sativus. C. sativus is the saffron crocus. Its flowers aren't spectacular, really, but they're perfectly attractive, even more so since you can conjure up imaginary sauces while you look at them. They have the pleasant habit of blooming in November, though they're fickle and may decide not to bloom at all. They also have the unpleasant habit of sending up their leaves ahead of time and hanging on to them until April or later. Six months of leaves outweigh the brief days of bloom, I find; since the sauces have so far all stayed imaginary, growing the flowers for a tiny amount of saffron doesn't seem all that exciting, either. All the sativus I planted last fall, except for a few sly, eely ones that got away, were dug up in the spring. They're hanging out in pots these days, putting up leaves, and later they will be whisked off into a corner with the black widows for the winter.
We're not talking about C. sativus, though. They aren't much of a surprise, what with the leaves letting you know that they're coming and all. The ones that do surprise me every year are the speciosus crocuses. The flowers come out of nowhere, it seems, since the leaves don't appear until spring. I returned from vacation a couple of weeks ago to find a small group basking merrily in the sunshine.
I wasn't even waiting for them this year, not even in some tucked-away, undusted little alcove of my brain; I really had forgotten all about them. The crocuses are looking a little lost there among the greenery, but the flowers do seem to stand up better with other plants' support. I'm not just saying that as gardener's "spin"—a white-washing way of not admitting that I had forgotten about them and planted other things in their spot. I did forget about them. Completely. They're just better off that way.
Since then other crocuses in various small patches have been blooming, with one or two new flowers opening a day. The fall-bloomers have an idiosyncratic character and appeal, separate from their beauty, blossoming as they do out of sync with the season and with the rest of their kind. They're like little floral post-it notes with reminders written all over them, and the reminders are all of pleasant things—starting with the fact of their own existence.
They also remind you of ephemerality—a little bit of a jolt, when autumn is only slowly moving along, and the other things still in flower are the kinds that bloom for months on end and still have weeks ahead of them (Go, 'Wild Thing' autumn sage!). In their own gentle way the crocuses suggest that you might want to pay attention to each day's changes as the year wanes.
They remind you of the joys to be found in bulbs and corms, which is handy, since a box of 500 ipheion, scilla, muscari, and sundry just arrived on the doorstep, and someone is going to have to plant them. How nice to have a little inspiration blooming at the same time.
They remind you that bees have favorites, too, and that all those blackfoot daisies and marigolds and the licorice mint and basil and sage are fine in their way, but crocus pollen is Something Else Entirely.
They remind you to keep an ear out for the sandhill cranes' return. (Almost right on cue a creaky purr resounds, and you see outstretched wings glinting in the sun as a family of cranes rides the thermals down the Rio Grande valley.)
They remind you not to fuss too much about color combinations in your garden, because Mother Nature sure doesn't.
They remind you that short-term fragility and long-term toughness can go hand in hand. The flowers will be gone in another few days. I will forget about them soon after, and the bulbs won't get any water or fertilizer or special attention.
And they'll be back next year with an October surprise.
* I've never actually known this.**
** That I recall.