If there are, perhaps, any blessings at all to old age and fading memory, one must consider that life is often lightened by the sudden reminders of lost memories. I had such a moment yesterday, during my "First Frost Chores" day, when the Crocus sp. pictured here decided to jump up and down to capture my attention. What a delightful surprise to find such an elfin white beauty peeping up from among the columbines, just as one is mourning the loss of so many of summer's flowers. On a Gulliver to Lilliput level, that bright orange pollen sprinkled on the translucent white background leaves me spellbound.
I hadn't the slightest idea where I obtained these, when I planted them, or how long they'd been there beyond a vague recollection of thinking they would be a nice addition to my autumn garden. They are not native in Kansas, however, so I'm choosing to blame my memory rather than proclaim a botanical miracle. In fact, when I first saw them, Crocus autumnale leapt into my mind as the most likely identification, probably because of the connection of autumn and autumnale within my rudimentary garden-gained Latin. I knew of another autumn blooming crocus, Crocus sativus, but I was betting on ProfessorRoush's scientific peculiarities, and I felt that I would have been more likely to plant C. autumnale, the source of the poly-ploid-inducing botanical agent colchicine, rather than C. sativus, the source of cooking saffron. In other words, my curious mind would likely chose a mutative toxin over a cooking spice for my garden. I was thinking, of course, of how fun it would be to make a few of my own tetraploid daylilies.
This episode proves, however, why you should keep good garden records and why the mysteries of senior memory loss are so frustrating. While I have no trouble recalling the scientific names and blooming characteristics of a pair of obscure autumn-blooming crocuses, I was wrong on both counts and my written notes inform me that I planted Crocus speciosus at these exact spots in 2004. C. speciosus is a light lilac crocus native to Turkey that does, in fact, match the appearance of these delicately veined blooms better than the fictitious crocuses of my memory. This light specimen is probably the white cultivar 'Albus'. The Latin, speciosus, means "showy" or "beautiful", and yes, I suppose it is.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, and contrary to my written notes, I still have an inkling that there are a few pink C. autumnale planted at the west corner of my house. They may have been shaded out by larger surrounding plants, but I'm going to look for them soon, if only to prove to myself that my memory isn't totally slipping into oblivion. On the other hand, if these are the surprises that my fifth decade brings, then I'm really looking forward to my nineties when the minute-to-minute astonishments of discovering again the existence of airplanes, computers, and television will really keep things exciting.