Today the first crocuses burst out in a defiance of electric blue. We are several weeks behind most places up here. My sister in Devon would regularly report crocuses in the hedgerows in early February, and there have been crocuses in the village churchyard for weeks now. But, even though we are only a few hundred feet higher up, and despite the fact that our slope is south facing, they have waited till today’s sunshine to show themselves.
They always seem so impressively exotic, and, of course, so they are. Their middle-eastern cousins are the source of saffron, and they still look like a desert mountain flower.
Alien species or not, they are easily naturalised. Like the snowdrop, they flower too early for pollination by insects, but they manage quite adequately without. To paraphrase John Donne, their sex is a slow, vegetative love.
The birds go mad for them. I don’t think they eat them at all, but they delight in pulling them out of the soil in gardens, and I’ve seen sparrows attack them and rip the flowers, as though all this colour after the drabness of the winter just sends them crazy.
They don’t know what to do with all this vibrant colour except trash it in an ecstasy of excitement. I know what they mean, and on days like this I feel a bit like a sparrow, too!