I know why the garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence, in her book The Little Bulb, described autumn crocus as “a lovely ghost that comes to haunt the garden in October.” Their delicate beauty looks as ephemeral as any apparition, especially as the October light shines through their petals. After flowering, they disappear until their cold-hardy foliage emerges – persisting until the first warm days of spring. If you grow some of these little dazzlers, one thing is important to know – they are poisonous! Despite the implication of their common names, autumn crocus, and meadow saffron, they are not crocus or saffron, and therefore should not be used in cooking.

Plant autumn crocus in late summer or early fall. Prefers rich, well-drained soil and light shade. If you can remember to order and plant autumn crocus corms in August, you can actually have blooms in October.