Bulb blunders–not totally my fault. Still a Gardening Oops?

It’s the first of the month … GOOPs Day. For those unfamiliar, GOOPs stands for Gardening Oops. GOOPs Day occurs on the first of each month when I confess a gardening blunder hoping my words might prevent you from repeating my faux pas. Then I ask you to humbly confess one of your GOOPs.

Spring has finally sprung in southern Connecticut gardens, mostly in the form of bulbs so this month’s GOOPs centers on this magic plant material.

As a rule, I try to plant greenery that local creatures – the 4-footed type – don’t particularly like. This, of course, is learned behavior honed after much trial and error. (We wont’ get into how much money went into this learned behavior – too scary.) When we first settled into our home more than a decade ago I planted many bulbs. Nothing says SPRING! better than bulbs popping up all over – except maybe the sound of spring peepers. I chose different varieties of narcissi with the understanding that deer and tunneling rodents don’t disturb them. I also planted crocus. I tucked two large groups of crocus on either side of the granite front steps – an area bathed in southern sun – knowing they would pop up early and give me my first taste of spring each year. For a while the two groups bloomed beautifully and spread as crocus will do.


I was happy.

Then the voles found my crocus. First only on one side of the steps. The tell-tale tunnels began to appear in late summer. I’d stomp the tunnels down. They would pop back up. I had a sinking feeling that proved to be right. No more early green shoots, no more dainty lavender blossoms on one side of the steps. Then the voles dug into the crocus on the other side of the steps. They took many. They left a few. What once was matching, eight to ten inch in diameter groups of blooming crocus is now one  lonely and small handful of lavender flowers on just one side of the steps.


Sad, isn’t it?

I’ve not repurchased crocus to take the place of the missing ones. Each spring I wish I had. But then summer arrives and I forget, or I talk myself out of replanting since I’d have to encase any new bulbs in a protective wire sheath to keep them from becoming vole dinner. This is my GOOPs. I’m denying myself one of the most enjoyable early spring blossoms.

Needless to say, I’m not too happy that local voles dined on my crocus. But they did not eat all the tasty bulbs. They must carry them deeper into their tunnels and drop one or two along the way, leaving bulbs behind to do what bulbs do – grow. I now have a crocus bulb blooming amongst lamb’s ear over here, and a crocus bulb over there, and yet another one many feet away.The sneaky underground creatures don’t seem to be able to keep track of their stolen bounty.  Of course I know their unintentional bulb drops will easily disappear if found by another visiting vole. If I could just get the underground designers to leave more than one bulb in a new local. The voles haven’t learned that masses of blooming bulbs make a much better statement than just one bloom here and there … this is their GOOPs.  Years earlier I found a crocus blooming deep in the woods, yards away from the place they were originally planted. Now I have single crocus bulbs popping up in my front planting beds where I never intended them to be. Do you think the voles are trying to play an April Fool’s joke on me?

I also planted crocus in a bed I see each time I enter and exit the side door. I look out over these early bloomers while enjoying morning coffee. Then deer found these crocus, iris reticulata, and tete-a-tete narcissi groups . They were such a bright cheery sight. I became accustomed to this morning, springtime view. Then the crocus and iris blooms disappeared. Among the tell-tale imprints of deer hooves only green leaves remained. Deer left the tete-a-tetes alone for the next few years. Then one must have strolled along, taken a nibble, and decided tete-a-tetes weren’t so bad after all.


The deer with the tete-a-tete fetish nibbles the bulbs’ green shoots as soon as they peek out of the ground. Finding these nibbles is my annual reminder to  bring out the apple baskets and start my cover-uncover routine. I place overturned baskets to protect the bulbs at night and uncover them to enjoy the view by day. I’ve since moved the iris into a fenced in area.


So, besides neglecting to purchase new crocus for either side of the front steps, my other GOOPs is assuming I’m the only designer at play in my gardens. We all do this. We plan and plant and expect everything to grow and be beautiful. We forget other creatures may have other ideas, and we are always surprised when one comes along to re-do our plans.

Now it’s your turn to follow the GOOPs tradition. Share one of your own gardening blunders in a comment below, or leave a teaser comment that directs us to a GOOPs post on your blog. 

May my GOOPs not be yours!

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12 comments for “Bulb blunders–not totally my fault. Still a Gardening Oops?

  1. April 1, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I was loving the first picture of your beautiful crocus… and then shuddered at those awful words: “and then the voles found my crocus”. Aaack.

    The voles in my garden do design with massing of color in mind! All of my tiny allium moly bulbs, carefully planted by me an extended long drift over 25 feet along my walkway, wound up in a giant tightly packed mass of dozens of bulbs smack under a shrub. The tight clump of green shoots was struggling to come up through the woody shrub all packed together! Those darn voles can’t design worth beans….

    My GOOPS is on my site this morning, and I have no one to blame but myself for a planting design blunder.

    • joenesgarden
      April 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

      Laurrie, at least your voles did not dine on the bulk of your allium bulbs. Did you replant them?

  2. April 1, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Joene, Your GOOPs does make one wonder why we gardeners are such a stubborn bunch! There’s a wonderful patch of crocus planted under a dogwood tree that I drive by almost every day. It’s so cheery when the crocus are soaking up the sun and I often wonder if the gardener knows how lucky he/she is to be able to enjoy such a lovely display without the critters interfering.

    My GOOPs is finally posted and is about how Mother Nature has a way of letting us know who’s in charge of the gardening calendar at this time of the year.

    • joenesgarden
      April 1, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      Debbie, I pass by a similar patch of crocus, also planted under a tree. No sign of voles or deer there either. Sigh.

  3. April 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Tragic losses. Is it true that Tommies are more vole-proof than regular crocus?

    My worst blunders are sins of omission. I forget to plant timely. I fail to mulch or divide or whatever the plant was expecting.

    • joenesgarden
      April 1, 2011 at 10:20 pm

      I’ve not tried Tommies yet, Nell Jean, but they are on my list of new bulbs to plant.

  4. Christine B.
    April 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Nothing is more cheerful than a crocus to me. Voles and other little, medium, and giant sized critters make their home in our state, so it is a constant battle/learning curve to see what seems unpalatable to them. So far, my research has revealed a starving animal in late winter will eat just about anything. It appears that nothing is sacred in my garden when the moose are hungry…drat!

    Christine in Alaska, no crocus yet

    • joenesgarden
      April 3, 2011 at 8:31 am

      Christine, you must need a pretty sturdy fence to keep moose out of your gardens. As for the voles, it seems that potted crocus are the answer. Hoping you’ll have crocus soon.

  5. April 4, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Its amazing that my love of all things green has grown proportionally to my dislike of all things brown and fuzzy. grr. voles.

  6. April 17, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    I have not had problems with my Muscari disappearing. My favorite is M. laterifolium, and they seem to spread out all by themselves, I don’t know if the bulbs are multiplying or just self-sowing. You might like them where you had the crocuses.

    • joenesgarden
      April 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      Hannah, I have muscari elsewhere in my gardens and have had problems with them disappearing. I think a hungry vole will eat anything in its path … just like hungry deer.

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