Today, all across the City in the parks and window boxes, and further out in little clearings in the bare forests, the grasping crocus will bloom, all at once. Overnight the buds will open up for the first time in the year, revealing a smattering of beautiful colours; delicate purples, whites, reds and blues, all the way through the yellow. The poet, Lilien, famously said that ‘it is as if a watercolourist had dropped their paint box all over the fields.’
The grasping crocus is so named because of its most peculiar attribute; before flowering, the closed buds are capable of growing into amazing shapes, at the whim of the grower. All that the grower has to do is place an object in the ground, just above the bulb of a grasping crocus. As long that this object is not too large, the crocus will ‘grasp’ the object, wrapping its petals about it tightly, and in the process assuming its shape.
The process is obviously of great fascination to children and adults alike; children are often taught about the phenomenon in biology class, where they perform mini-experiments, planting toys and watching them be birthed from the earth. They are taught about how the excellent timing of the plants is down to adaptations intended to ensure they do not flower before the Gale of the Dead. Adults hold competitions to see who can grow the most interesting plants, a practice that has now been elevated to an art form.
At the end of the day today, the Buentoilliçan Horticultural Fellowship will host the Festival of the Grasping Crocus, where amazing floral arrays are showcased and judged. There are two main categories; firstly the ‘bloomed’ variety, where the image of the original item has been broken as the flower opened. These tend to take the most artistic vision of the two, and are often created with hand-carved pieces of wood that take into account the flower’s opening, although many artists favour household items such as small corkscrews, toy soldiers and the like. The second category is the ‘closed’ variety, where the original shape is maintained by either closing the flower again with glue, keeping the flowers in a wind tunnel to prolong the ‘bud’ stage of development, or by using Asphic’s powder for the same reason. This category’s judging seems to mostly favour growers who crow plants in larger or more audacious shapes, but sometimes there are more interesting artistic statements made; in 2014 the artist Jander Hoddt grew thirteen flowers within each other, like a nesting doll, and presented them in cross-section.
Once the flower blooms it usually drops whatever it was holding, and as such fields with crocuses are often scattered with strange, long-buried objects today. Treasure hunters have found many ancient stashes of coins this way, and one field was once mysteriously littered with human teeth. The stigma of the flower is also used in cookery, commonly known as grasping saffron. It lends dishes a light purple colour, rather than the yellow exhibited by regular saffron. Cooks have experimented with placing whole nutmegs, truffles, coal and other items above grasping crocus bulbs in order to modify the taste. Madin Jempale’s grasping crocus soup is famed across the City, and the item they bury above the crocus bulb to achieve the fantastic taste is a closely guarded secret.
As they appear in February, there were bound to be some occult associations to the flowers. It’s a commonly held belief that witches bury small chunks of mandrake root above the bulbs in order to capture the spirits of those buried nearby, ‘birthing’ them from the earth as useful servants.
Other festivals happening today:
Dogyedd Mandill’s Festival of Chocolate Indulgences
The Crocus-Eater’s Tasting Ceremony
Listen to Your Mother; a Festival of ESSENTIAL Advice