Crocuses in the Lawn: Planning

by Kathy Purdy on December 13, 2012 · 14 comments

in How-to, New House, New Gardens

Crocus in the Lawn Planning Pinterest badgeCrocuses in the lawn were not originally in my garden plans for this year. I knew I wanted to dig a lot of daffodils from my old garden and I would be replanting them in the fall. I suspected I would not have time to plant all those daffs and crocuses besides. (My suspicions were correct, but more on that later.) I was gratified to hear various family members remark that they missed the Crocus Bank I had planted at the old house. I often wonder if my family finds my gardening endeavors bordering on insanity and merely tolerates my eccentricities with good humor. But no, they actually missed the Crocus Bank, which means they actually noticed it all these years and in some small way it gave them pleasure. The fact is, though the results were highly gratifying and lasted for years, planting it did border on insanity and I was glad I only had to do it once.

Except, I’m doing it again.

Because I received an unexpected gift, I decided to begin planting crocuses this year after all. Since I’ve done it before, I’ve a few ideas on how to do it better and I’ll be sharing them with you.

Where to Plant?

At the old house, the driveway cut through a slope, forming a bank on the north-facing side, which is where I planted the original Crocus Bank. From this I learned that 1) snow removed from the driveway is piled on either side, and these piles of snow linger long after the rest of the snow has melted, and 2) the snow melts on the south facing side first. At the new house, I still wanted to plant the crocuses where they could be seen by anyone approaching the house, and so much the better if anyone driving by could see them, too. Late last winter I had taken pictures of all the places around the house where the snow melted first. Looking at these, I decided on an area near the driveway but not so close that it would have snow mounded on it:

area of lawn marked for crocus planting

I want to have this entire area planted with crocuses–eventually.

This just happens to be an area that gets southern exposure, which will help the soil warm up in spring.

How Many to Plant?

I had unexpectedly received an offer from Longfield Gardens to sample some of their bulbs at no cost. After adding a small selection of hyacinths for forcing to my order, I decided to allocate the rest of Longfield’s generous offer to the crocus planting. It was actually a very good thing to have a budget, otherwise I might have really gotten in over my head.

I remembered from planting the Crocus Bank that it actually takes a lot of crocuses planted close together to make a good show. I found two places where suggested amounts per area were provided.

Old House Gardens has a handy-dandy chart that tells you the number of bulbs per square foot for various spacing requirements. Longfield Gardens recommends planting crocuses three inches apart so, going by this chart, I would be shooting for sixteen bulbs per square foot.

McClure & Zimmerman provides a quantity per square yard for each bulb they sell, but only in the print catalog, not on the website. Fortunately you can browse the McClure & Zimmerman catalog online, where on page 23 of this year’s catalog they recommend the smaller species crocus to be planted at a density of 188 per square yard (20.8/sq ft) and on the following page suggest the larger Dutch crocuses to be planted 125 per square yard (13.8/sq ft). So, how big of an area do I want to plant? I was going to let the budget decide that.

These crocuses bloom every year at our previous house. I want to duplicate this in the new garden. (c) Cadence Purdy

These crocuses bloom every year at our previous house. I want to duplicate this in the new garden. (c) Cadence Purdy

What Kinds of Crocuses to Plant?

I wanted as long a bloom period as possible for this winter-blues-busting project, so I included both species crocus (smaller but earlier) and Dutch crocus (larger and a bit later) in the planting. Fragrant crocus can occasionally be found, so if Longfield Gardens had any fragrant ones, I wanted them, too.

I didn’t live here long before discovering there were plenty of crocus-loving rodents inhabiting my garden–another reason that starting a new crocus patch this year gave me pause. C. tommasianus is reputed to be squirrel-resistant, which, I hope, also means chipmunk- and vole-resistant. So any “tommies” in their list would be going in my cart, too. Why not plant tommies exclusively? Because I wouldn’t get the extended season of bloom or the color range that I would by including the other kinds, and I’ve discovered the yellow ones pop out better against the grey-brown dormant lawn than the purple and white crocuses. And besides, I viewed this as a test run, an experiment to see what I could get away with. Or, if you’re a bit more cynical, a gamble I was willing to make because I wasn’t paying for the corms.

So, taking all these factors into consideration, I finally ordered:

–for a total of 400 corms. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? And yet, according to the chart provided by Old House Gardens, that is enough for an area five feet square. A goodly amount for a test plot, but not the effect I want in the long term. If the rodents don’t ravage the planting, I hope to continue it next year, maybe with another 400, maybe more.

What to Call It?

It’s not a bank, so we can’t call it Crocus Bank II. I’ve heard folks refer to a river of daffodils or tulips, but crocuses seem too tiny to be a river. Still, perhaps it is a crocus stream–or would brook be better? Crocus creek? What do you think?

This is part one of a two part series. I’ll show you what I went through to get those 400 corms planted in part two. Longfield Gardens issued me a credit towards their bulbs with no strings attached. I have never grown their bulbs before. Expect a full report next spring!

About

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy's been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

To northern gardeners, this time of year [March] is full of anxious pleasure. Even as they daydream about the botanical pleasures of June and July, ordinary mortals find themselves nearly defeated by the gardening deadlines that pass so swiftly in March. Extraordinary mortals--whose seeds arrived two months ago, whose windows are now full of seedlings, and who are ready to sow peas and carrots the instant the soil thaws--will suffer torments of their own when the perfections they're planning somehow fail to germinate or blossom. A garden is just a way of mapping the strengths and limitations of your personality onto the soil. It would be too much to bear if nature didn't temper a gardener's ambition or laziness with her own unsolicited abundance.
Verlyn Klinkenborg

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Adavard@Dutch Grown December 19, 2013 at 1:53 am

Last month I planted Muscari and Amaryllis bulbs in my back space because my kids force me to plant these bulbs.
Thanks Katie for spreading some information………..

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Katie April 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

Cant wait to see these in bloom!!!

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Elana December 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I want to order some crocus bulbs and plant them in some planters with my son as an experiment. Am I too late to do so this season? Will they thrive just as well in a pot as in a garden?

What other bulbs can you suggest I plant this far in the season to bloom in spring?

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Kathy Purdy December 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I would be really surprised if you could find crocus bulbs to order online at this point, but you might still find them at a big box or warehouse store. They will bloom in pots after they have been chilled, but even if you plant them in the ground after they are done blooming, you may not get them to bloom again. You might find pre-chilled hyacinths to force, but I’m not sure they will wait until spring to bloom. I guess it all depends on when you think spring starts.

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Louis December 21, 2012 at 11:07 am

Look forward to part two of the series. Like to know what you went through planting your corms. Also look forward to spring.

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Craig @ Ellis Hollow December 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I’ve planted my share of crocus in beds and would love to grow them in the lawn. But they just don’t last for me. I blame the voles. Meantime, eranthis is spreading out of the beds and into the lawn, and the early irises continue to multiply. I wish I could do the same with crocuses.

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Donna@Gardens Eye View December 15, 2012 at 10:35 am

Not sure what to call it but I have a spray of crocuses in several spots…all tommies…I think In planted more than 500 in 5 areas so 100 in each area in hopes they would fill in and move…they lasted a long time this past spring…oh and in a well drained area which restricts the areas to plant for me…my lawn is green when they come up so the purples will be lovely…can’t wait to see yours this spring…

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Daricia December 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Crocuses are truly excellent winter blues busters. I adore them! I like your crocus crescent…both the alliterative sound of it (thanks, flaneur) and the look. I have a small one of my own, and hope to keep adding more.

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Deirde December 14, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Colorblends is a good source for large quantities of bulbs at a good price; 100 tommies is $11. I’ve been very happy with the quality of the bulbs, too. They have a minimum order of $60, but that would get you 600 tommies to plant.

Tiny corms like crocus can be planted by throwing them on the ground and covering them with a two-three of inches of mulch. You can’t get much easier than that.

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Pat Webster December 14, 2012 at 10:48 am

I like Flâneur’s suggestion of the crocus crescent — an accurate and alliterative description. Another possibility is the crocus path — that’s what the red lines on your photo suggested to me.

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Deborah at Kilbourne Grove December 14, 2012 at 6:07 am

I hope you have more success then I did. I planted 1,000 tommies hoping the squirrels would ignore them, the following spring I had only a few blooms…

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Flâneur Gardener December 14, 2012 at 1:12 am

Judging by your drawn-in suggested area, I’d say it looks like you’re planning either a Crocus Crescent or a Crocus Curve… (Yes, I do like alliteration!)

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