Kelsae and crocuses

J.J. Strong
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Last week, I was at a friend’s house for dinner and he showed me a couple of large onions he had been given by a friend, who was a reader and has a summer cottage and garden down the Salmonier line.

Naturally, because of my long experience growing large onions, I was interested. One weighed around 3.5-4 lbs and the other about two lbs. He contacted his friend by phone and, as I suspected, they were Kelsae onions.

I have grown Kelsae here to a maximum of 4-5 lbs.  I explained that in 1992, I had visited Mayfield Nursery, the original nursery in Kelso, Scotlan, who had developed this variety, and learned their growing methods. Kelsae started at 4 lbs 15 oz in 1975 and during my visit in 1992 I held the then world record 11 lbs 2 oz. prize in my hands. It was grown by Mr. R Holland.

The reader had the ideal site, an open, sunny garden, yet sheltered from severe winds. He had built up a good soil with plenty of manure over the years to today’s depth of 16 inches (30.5 cm). He bought his plants from Glendale Nursery in Mount Pearl and used 6-12-12 fertilizer and plenty of watering. He had done all the right things and was well rewarded for his efforts. Well done.


These, as I said last week, are the first of the spring bulbs together with the snowdrops. They are members of the Iradaceae family and have a large number of branches; they were found in various parts of the world, as we shall see.

In general, the spring flowering crocuses are always a delight to see formally along the edge of paths, in the rockery, or even in a pot, but surely, the finest sight is the large areas of naturalized crocuses, peeping out through the grass in lawns and under trees. There are many old established gardens in Newfoundland with naturalized crocuses.

For lawns and naturalizing, it is best to use early flowering varieties, so they will have a chance to mature and die back before the grass requires cutting.  The alternative, in the stages of naturalizing, is to try and cut around the clumps.

Today’s crocuses may be found in pure white, yellow, purple or blue colours and some have striped combinations of these three shades of colour. Dutch hybrids are, today, probably the most widely grown, and many are large flowering and listed separately from the species.

Planting. Any well drained site, in full sun or partial shade, will suffice.  Plant the corms 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) deep and 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) apart. A bit of the usual bonemeal or slow release Bulb Booster fertilizer under the bulbs, but not in contact with the bulbs, will help them get started in their new home.

Crocuses have contractile roots that permit them to adjust themselves to the correct depth.

In beds and borders, it may be necessary to lift and split the clumps every four years, as the new tiny cormlets are produced around the base of the old corms and new corms are developed on the top of the old corms.

Do this after the flowers and foliage have died down. The blues, purples and striped varieties tend to multiply faster than the yellows. In some species, the yellows only multiply by corms, while in others multiply by seed. Mice love to eat crocus bulbs, and some losses may be attributed to these rodents that appear to have a keen nose for finding crocus corms.

J.J. Strong is a longtime member of the

Newfoundland Horticultural Society.

Organizations: Horticultural Society

Geographic location: Kelso, Mount Pearl, Newfoundland

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