The season has begun! The first crocus is up and blooming, despite lows of 14 degrees at night and blustery days of late winter. Meet the species Crocus korolkowii 'Brown Tiger,' putting on a show in Mike Smedley's crevice rock garden on Feb. 27. Mike says the outsides of these large, golden flowers are heavily striated and mottled in dark maroon. The bulb (actually, it's a corm but no one really cares about that detail) hails from the steppes of Central Asia -- notably the "stans": Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and north to the Kara Tau Mountains of Kazakhstan. So that tells you just how tough-as-nails this spring ephemeral is. At night, the petals collapse around the stamen and stigma to protect until the next morning. The next earliest blooming crocus will be C. ancyrensis 'Golden Bunch'. These should make a showing in a week or two, followed by the various Snow Crocus, C. chrysanthus, along with Iris reticulata (snow iris), Galanthus (snowflakes), Eranthus (winter aconite) and the usual suspects who brave the cold.