Plant of the Week: Snow crocus

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Typically some of the earliest spring ephemerals to bloom on the High Line, crocuses brighten the park with colors ranging from yolky yellow to royal purple. Last October, volunteers joined us to inter-plant two thousand Crocus chrysanthus 'Cream Beauty' with a thousand of its close relative, C. biflorus 'Miss Vain.' The pale yellow tones of this new addition offset the pure white of the 'Miss Vain' flowers, which have dotted the lawn in previous years. Sharing a native range across Turkey and the Balkans, the straight species of these two cultivars can hybridize in the wild.

Crocuses are not true bulbs, like tulips or daffodils, but corms. Both corms and bulbs store starch, giving the plant energy to produce leaves and flowers. However, corms are modified stems and if you were to cut one open, you would find it solid inside, rather than layered like an onion.

On the High Line, the finely bladed foliage of these two corms blended with the grass making these crocuses virtually invisible until last week, when drifts of yellow and white flowers lit up the lawn. Commonly called the snow crocus, C. chrysanthus often braves the cold of early March to offer a glimpse of the season to come. This year, however, spring was already here to greet it.

In our area, plant in mid- to late October at a depth of about 4". Planting crocuses is a great garden activity for children. We recommend using a dibble, a tool with a blunted point, to make planting really easy.

23rd Street Lawn & Seating Steps

Photos by Ayinde Listhrop.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

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