How to plant crocus bulbs en masse

Posted in All Gardening Advice, Bulbs, October, on

At Great Dixter, they have a beautiful garden; every area of grass is packed densely with crocus flowers. The look is spectacular. They have been planting crocus bulbs here since the 20th century when Christopher Lloyd’s parents developed the garden and the overall massed impact of crocus is heart-lifting.

Planting crocus bulbs in your garden

We may not be able to jump straight to the paradise of the Great Dixter gardens in one fell swoop, but at least we can start the process and now, (at crocus flowering time), is the moment. Come the autumn, it’s difficult to imagine where existing crocuses are or where you may want them, so do detailed drawings (and maybe photography) in early spring.

Snowdrops thrive on the periphery of your grass, where the turf is often semi shaded and less dense, whereas crocuses are happy in thick turf with the sun fully on them. Fergus Garret, Head Gardener at Great Dixter, purposely looks for places where the winter sun hits, so crocuses will open wide and give maximum drama and impact. There are various ways of planting crocus en masse in grass. At Kew, they lift the grass and scatter the crocuses onto the soil and then replace the turf. At Great Dixter, crocus bulbs are planted singly, by the thousand, using a bulb planter with a long handle like a spade.

The job of planting is much quicker with two people.

  • First, you’ll need a bucket of compost and a bucket of crocuses.
  • It’s easier if the grass is short, so cut in the late autumn, before planting anytime from October to December. This has the added advantage that you’ll see the flowering crocus much more clearly in the late winter with the grass cut short.
  • After punching 20 or 30 holes, Fergus recommends standing back and squinting your eyes to check that the distribution is natural. Once you’re happy with the pattern, start planting the bulbs.
  • Half an inch of potting compost is put in the bottom of the hole. Use a fresh bag of multipurpose compost mixed with grit on heavy soils.
  • Then place an individual crocus on top of that and then another half inch of compost. Break a little soil off the bottom of the plug so it will sink to the right level and replace.

I left Great Dixter thinking that gardening here, has achieved the ultimate aim for any of us: to enhance what one thought until that moment was the perfect scene.