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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A microclimate enticed the first blooms of 2016

One month from today it will be spring, but a microclimate enticed the first blooms of 2016 in my zone 6b landscape today.

Crocus are always the first blooms in my gardens. These, located near the front steps, get strong south-western sun exposure.

First blooms of 2016

A microclimate enticed the first blooms of 2016

This location is a warm microclimate in my landscape, located near hardscape (on either side of granite steps and a concrete paver walkway). The hardscape soaks in and holds heat from the sun causing the adjacent soil to warm earlier than soils not near hardscape. The warming soil entices crocus bulbs into early bloom.

Another warm microclimate is on the opposite side of the house along the foundation wall. Notice the daffodils in the photo below already have a bud (lighter green on the right).

First daffodil bud of 2016.

First daffodil bud of 2016 emerges in a warm microclimate.

Though planted along the north-east side of the house where full sun does not reach intensely until mid- to late-spring, these daffodils are always the first spring bulbs to emerge. The soil next to the foundation of the heated house warms earlier than soil in garden beds farther from the foundation.

The crocus and daffodil bulbs, even of the same variety, planted in chillier sections of the gardens will not bloom until spring.

A microclimate is a section of a landscape that isslightly warmer, cooler, drier or wetter. Learn more in this earlier post on microclimates. Identify any microclimate in your landscape to allow you to use them to your gardening advantage.

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