Crocus in bloom

Crocus in bloom signals the start of the growing season in my zone 6 gardens in Connecticut. Planted as bulbs during autumn and early winter before the ground freezes, they pop out of the ground as the soil begins to warm each spring.

Though often considered an easy bulb to grow, gardeners with voles may find their crocus plantings devoured as winter food. Voles tunnel under ground and remain active throughout the winter season. Finding a group of crocus bulbs must be exciting for hungry voles. The bulbs not eaten are often carried to other sections of their tunnel system, I suspect, for future meals.

Such activity is evident in my gardens. Years back I had two large groupings of lavender-hued crocus planted on either side of steps leading to my front porch … an area that receives lots of late winter sunshine. They bloomed beautifully, year after year, until found by voles. It was heartbreaking to learn the entire planting had become winter fodder.

In my reading of various garden blogs, articles, and catalogs I learned that Crocus tommasinianus varieties, commonly called tommies, are vole-resistant. The variety Ruby Giant is featured below.

Crocus tommasinianus Ruby Giant

Crocus tommasinianus Ruby Giant

Now tommies are the only type of crocus I plant. Voles leave them alone, so I can safely expect their repeat bloom year after year. I love how they pair with the gold-tipped foliage of the still small arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Filip’s Magic Moment’) planted inside my back yard fence.

Crocus tommasinianus Ruby Giant in front of a  young Thuja occidentalis 'Filip's Magic Moment'.

Crocus tommasinianus Ruby Giant in front of a young Thuja occidentalis ‘Filip’s Magic Moment’.

The non-tommie crocus bulbs originally planted more than a decade ago have not completely disappeared though. They pop up here and there in spots where voles must had dropped or deposited bulbs while traveling through underground tunnels. I smile when I see these ‘transplanted’ crocus in bloom … reminded that I am not the only designer of my gardens.

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2 comments for “Crocus in bloom

  1. March 17, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    My planting of crocus bulbs, which was only a few years old, had only a single flower last year, and seems to have completely disappeared this year. I suspect voles are the culprits. Thanks for the tip about the tommies being vole-resistant. I’m planning to plant several hundred crocus bulbs in the fall, so I will be sure to buy only varieties of this species.

    • March 20, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Sounds like a good plan. My tommies have increased every year since I planted them. They also seem to be left alone by deer.

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