Fresh compost in the perennials bed

On Wednesday, I went out and bought some peat-free compost and bark chips, and replanted the perennials bed. This isn’t that story.

This story starts a few days earlier, when I was unplanting the perennials bed, taking out the unruly and unproductive occupants so it could be topped up and replanted with things we might eat. This story is about what I found when I turned the soil over, which would have been difficult to photograph – tiny weeny saffron corms. Masses of tiny weeny saffron corms, and no big ones.

When I originally planted up the perennials bed, I included saffron corms that (iirc) I brought with me from the old garden. In the old garden I got a few flowers, and harvested some saffron. Since bringing my corms here, I’ve seen a bit of foliage, and that’s it. I’ve pretty much forgotten where I planted the corms. I should have made a note somewhere, but I think in the rush to plant up the new beds I may have forgotten.

So… it is perhaps not surprising that these saffron corms haven’t come to much, as they were woefully overshadowed by the unruly perennials. I can’t imagine they ever got much light. We’ll have to see whether they fare any better whilst the bed is a bit more sparsely populated (a situation I don’t expect to continue for very long!).

But it did make me wonder. We were all sold the idea that saffron was as easy to grow as onions, with a harvest that would be small, but infinitely more valuable. After all, saffron used to be grown as a crop in this country – that’s why Saffron Waldon is called that. (In fact, there’s still Norfolk Saffron.)

So I asked my the more adventurous GYOers on Twitter whether they’d achieved proper, ongoing success with saffron. These are the replies:

I suspect that Wendy may have hit the nail on the head with the comment about competition. As a crop in a field environment, kept weeded, saffron may thrive in this country. In a garden, where gardeners are making the best of their space and hoping saffron will crop underneath/behind/in with everything else, perhaps not. In a dedicated space, saffron doesn’t have much to offer gardeners – it’s foliage isn’t striking, and disappears entirely during the summer. The flowers are rather lovely, but rarely produced in profusion, short-lived, and – as Liz says – often battered by the weather as they appear in autumn.

And so the question remains – what’s the secret to success with saffron, and can gardeners get a good crop from this perennial spice? It’s certainly not as simple as we were led to believe.