HOW TO GROW CROCUSES

One of the easiest and hardiest bulbs to grow. Never cut the leaves off but tie the foliage in a knot after the flowers have faded, to make them look neater. Crocuses make a good edging plant to a border; they look well in a shrubbery, and are grand for naturalizing in grass. They will grow in almost any soil and should be planted 75 or 100 mm (3 or 4 in) deep and 50 to 75 mm (2 to 3 in) apart. Plant as soon as the bulbs become available in October. See that they are well buried down in the soil and when planting look out for any soft decaying bulbs and see that these are burnt.

There are spring and autumn flowering crocuses and there are a number of named varieties which usually bloom early. I can recommend Blue Peter, a medium blue; Mary, a dark blue; Snow White, a pure white; Ruby Giant, a dark purple; and Zwanenburg, a yellow.

GRAPE HYACINTHS (MUSCARI)

These come into flower soon after crocuses. They naturalize quite well in a woodland garden. They look beautiful in the shrub border if planted in drifts and to get a good blue haze effect you need about 50 bulbs in a group. They like rather open soil with plenty of sand or grit in it and the heavier soils may be enriched with such material. Plant late September or early October, 75 or 100 mm (3 or 4 in) deep and as close as 75 to 100 mm (3 to 4 in) apart. Mulch the bulbs with a little horticultural peat or leaf mould for the first year or two.

SCILLAS (BLUEBELLS)

The scillas and squills are in the same family. The squill is really a dwarf kind of Scilla siberica and the Bluebell a tall kind of S. festalis or S. nutans. They are a family that will flower almost anywhere. They seem as happy in shade as in sunshine. They grow in banks or under trees, but to look well they must be planted in a mass. The Bluebells grow about 300 mm (1 ft) high and the squills not more than 75 or 100 mm (3 or 4 in) high. Neither of them like to be disturbed so they can be left down for years and years. There are pink and white types of Bluebells but it is the blues that are most popular.

Plant early in September if possible. Normally the right depth, especially in light soil, is 125 to 150 mm (5 to 6 in) but for Siberica 75 mm (3 in) will do. The squills if planted no deeper than this will flower with the Crocus and Bluebells.

SNOWDROPS

These are almost the first bulbs to bloom and as they dislike being disturbed they should be left for years after planting. They are easy to grow and so do well in almost all soils. Plant them in the wild garden, plant them in the orchard, grow them alongside the paths, have little groups if you will in front of the herbaceous border, but to get the best effects always have 20 to 30 bulbs together. On the whole, snowdrops prefer a light soil and if planting in very heavy clay add horticultural peat at a bucketful per square metre.

Plant the bulbs 75 mm (3 in) deep and as close as 25 mm (1 in) if you wish. Naturally when planting in drifts some bulbs will be 100 to 125 mm (4 to 5 in) apart and others much closer together. Get the planting done as soon as the bulbs are on sale, or arrive.

Galanthus nivalis is the common snowdrop; G. nivalis flore pleno a double and pretty at that. G. elwesii is the giant snowdrop best grown in cultivated land.

WINTER ACONITES

The winter aconites belong to the buttercup family and do well in a half shady place, in the wild garden and in shrub borders. They are very hardy and spread quickly. They produce clear bright yellow blooms soon after the snowdrop. The bulbs should be planted 50 to 75 mm (2 to 3 in) deep in moist rather than drier soil. The usual Aconite grown is Eranthls hyemalis.

LEUCOJUM (SNOWFLAKE)

Looks very much like the snowdrop and is often mistaken for it. It bears white flowers with green tips on stems 175 or 200 mm (7 or 8 in) tall. The bulbs should be planted 75 mm (3 in) deep in well-drained soil. They love a sloping bank. The best known is Leucojum vernum.

CAMASSIA

This bears attractive star-shaped blossoms either light blue, purplish blue or white, depending on variety. It thrives in shade as much as in the open. Plant the bulbs 100 to 125 mm (4 to 5 in) deep and 75 to 100 mm (3 to 4 in) apart. They do quite well in a heavy soil. The flowers usually appear in May, or as late as early June. Camassia esculenta looks rather like a large blue hyacinth.

ALLIUM

A member of the onion family. Most varieties flower in May or June and my favourite, A. moly, is at its best at the end of May producing a mass of yellow flowers on stems 300 mm (1 ft) high. Do not plant in grass. They prefer cultivated land. Plant the bulbs 50 to 75 mm (2 to 3 in) apart. A. acuminatum bears rose coloured flowers on stems 200 mm (8 in) high and A. neapolitanum bears pretty white flowers with really lovely glossy dark green foliage below.

STERNBERGIAS

This is an autumn flowerer and produces its blooms long before the leaves. It quite likes a heavy soil and prefers a somewhat shady position. It grows rather like a large crocus, sending up several bright yellow flowers at a time. It hates lime, so do not plant in a chalky soil. Plant in August, burying the bulbs 75 to 100 mm (3 to 4 in) deep and 150 mm (6 in) apart. Fork sedge peat or leaf mould into the soil beforehand at one bucketful per square metre. It is a very good edging plant.

AUTUMN CROCUS

This is a surprisingly lovely flower which is at its full beauty in September and October. The lovely crocus-like blooms appear first and the large strap-like foliage afterwards. Always plant in July if you can and never delay after the middle of August. Autumn crocuses do well in grass and’ are just as happy growing in front of the herbaceous border in a clump or drift. They look well planted in circles around trees in an orchard. There are a large number of types, my favourites being Crocus medius, a lavender purple feathered purple; C. longiflorus, a lilac; and C. talzmanni, a scented lavender blue.

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