Ruby Giant

'Ruby Giant'
Tommy Crocus

"Hush! Epigea wakens!--
The crocus stirs her lids."

-Emily Dickenson


Tommies (Crocus tommasinianus) have such little blooms compared to the Dutch vernal hybrids they are related to, it is amusing to see one of these tiny flowers called a Giant. It is true at least that 'Ruby Giant' is a bit larger than our other tommies, if still small.

'Ruby Giant' is a velvety deep violet to royal purple with yellow-orange anthers. There is not the least bit of ruby red, so both 'Ruby' & 'Giant' are a bit of a stretch. Still, one can just about imagine a reddish hue on the outer petals if one tries.

Ruby GiantCloned from a native of southern Europe, 'Ruby Giant' naturalizes easily & will spread from its garden location into nearby lawns. Because of the small size they are not showy in lawns until they reach a great many in number, but they bloom so early in the year there's no worry the lawn will grow over their little blooms.

As a generality, this has the fastest reproductive rate of any species crocus. Some people complain that it can even be a little weedy, hard though it is for me to imagine anyone being sorry about the increasing numbers of such beautiful blooms. I would not be annoyed if it established itself over an extensive area, but others have reported that it produced cormlets so numerous & so small that it was impossible to ever rid an area of its presence once it is well established, a trait it shares with certain species of Grape Hyacinths.

Ruby GiantThe cultivars do not necessarily grow true from their seeds, though the offset cormlets do grow true to the parent. A spreading patch of a specific cultivar will over time become less uniform in its color presentation, though in general all the cultivars are such pleasing shades of blue-violet that it hardly matters that they may seed darker or lighter than the original bulbs. The actual wild form of C. tommasinianus does seed true, but not when grown in proximity of any of its cultivated varieties, as all of them cross-pollinate willfully.

Many crocuses have a tendency to flop over due to weak stems, or to at least flop over on overcast days when the blooms remain closed awaiting for a sunnier day. Tommies are a major exception. They're upright & sturdy, even on overcast days with flowers tightly shut, looking like blue candles amidst tea-whisks of their own grass.

The selected variety 'Ruby Giant' was introduced by bulb breeder J. Roozen-Kramer of Bennebroek, The Netherlands, in 1956. It blooms February & March. It is present for several weeks, & with other strains of tommies starting a week or two earlier or later, one can have tommies through a very long stretch of late winter to mid-spring.

We had 'Ruby Giant' naturalized in a large area of mixed crocuses for several years without knowing which sort of tommies they might be. Then in Autumn 2003, we planted about two-dozen of the little 'Ruby Giant' corms in a winter-sunned garden amidst a few die-back perennials, & when these began blooming at the end of the third week in February, at the exact same time the older ones in the mixed drift also flowered, it was obvious that they were also 'Ruby Giant.'

A bit of the older mixed patch is shown in the third photo, alongside a few 'Blue Pearl' crocuses. The first two photos are of the second drift of 'Ruby Giant.'

In Autum 2004 we planted another two-dozen corms extending their drift to under a sweet cherry tree. So we now have a great many 'Ruby Giants,' the expanded drift dominating a hill before spring perennials return (such as monkshoods & globeflowers), besides the older ones in the mixed drift under the Oyama magnolia.


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