All the world loves a Crocus,” wrote the famous Louise Beebe Wilder, putting into words a thought that many of us have each spring. Few flowers are so fresh-looking, so jaunty and vital, so appealing, she continued and again she put our thought into words. The other morning I ran down into the garden to check for watering needs and her words came back to me as I suddenly spotted a clump of the light lilac, autumn-flowering in full bloom.
More people should grow crocuses. They are so easy to grow and quite inexpensive to buy. A few dollars spent on crocus bulbs in the fall provide a rich reward for many springs and falls to come. In Scotland I saw them naturalized in some of the lawns. It could be done here if the householder would be willing to let his lawn go uncut until the corms are matured.
They are delightful under light shrubbery and massed at the base of a low spreading tree. They are also very effective when used in beds and borders and for adding color to window and porch boxes and they are ideal for use in rock gardens. Every garden should have at least one little planting of crocus. The crocus is one bulb (corm) that can be set out as soon as it comes on the market. They, like all other bulbs, must have good drainage and except for this they are not at all exacting in their requirements.
They do appreciate a fairly deep, fertile soil in preference to one that is poor and compacted. By digging to a very liberal amount of compost or other humus material to a depth of 10 inches or more the poor soil can be improved so that it will grow bulbs quite well. Choose a place in full sun, if possible. However, they will grow and bloom in part shade as witness my clump of C. melius which gets lots of light but sun only a little while in the morning.
When buying crocus bulbs buy 10 to a dozen of each variety and make several selections so you can have a long season of their elfin-like beauty. Also, get one of the fall-blooming types if you want a real surprise. These little corms will bloom a short time after they are planted. I have had them bloom while they are in a saucer waiting to be planted. If your soil is the average good garden loam and you work it up well you can set the corms three to four inches deep. I excavate five to six inches of soil in the spots I am going to plant and spread a generous handful of non-burning controlled release fertilizer over the bottom.
This material is 6-40-7 so it provides the corms with plenty of phosphorus over a long period of time. I put back an inch of soil over the fertilizer and set the corms four to five inches apart covering them with the remainder of the excavated soil. Be sure to put a small stake with a label on it in the center of the planting. This reminds you that the space is taken and it keeps you from forgetting the name of the variety.
Most of the crocus corms available in nurseries are Dutch hybrids as only a few growers bother with the species. However, most of these growers get out catalogs and a little looking will turn them up. If you can’t find thee fall-blooming species you will be able to find colchicum autumnale which blooms in the fall. This one is not a crocus but a member of the lily family but it looks and blooms like a crocus. Most nurseries and garden supply stores tack a picture of the variety to each box of bulbs and corms.
Take a pencil with you and write the variety name on the bag before putting the corms in, and use a separate bag for each variety. Don’t forget that crocus make charming container plants so why not plant a couple of pots, one for each side of your front door to surprise your guests.