Crocuses 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: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.
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:
- 100 mixed Dutch crocus (later and bigger)
- 25 ‘Remembrance’ (large, dark purple)
- 25 ‘Pickwick’ (large, purple striped)
- 25 ‘Yalta’(hybrid with tommy blood, silver and purple bicolor)
- 25 ‘Jeanne d’Arc’(large, white)
- 25 ‘Firefly’ (small, lilac-blue with yellow center)
- 25 ‘Miss Vain’ (small, white, fragrant
- 25 ‘Romance’ (small, soft yellow)
- 25 ‘Ruby Giant’ (small, purple, a tommy)
- 100 Mixed species crocus (earlier and smaller)
–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!