Tag Archive for voles

Crocus in spite of voles –You Can Grow That!

When I moved to my current home fourteen years ago I had visions of wonderful drifts of crocus blooming in response to lengthening daylight and slowly warming temperatures of late winter in south-central Connecticut. I planted groups of crocus bulbs right outside my front door, on either side of the walkway near the porch steps, where nearby hardscape would hold the warmth of the sun and beckon the crocus to bloom as early as possible.

I don’t recall the exact year I first planted these crocus, but I found a photo from 2004 showing how one clump had expanded from a small group of earlier planted bulbs.


Here is a clump a year later, in 2005, peeking through snow.


By 2006, the clumps on either side of the walkway had multiplied to about a foot in diameter.


These late-winter to early-spring bloomers delivered much joy to my winter-weary soul.

Then voles moved in.

Though I continuously flattened the vole tunnels I found running through the areas where these crocus were planted, the bloom numbers continued to decline. Each year they bloomed more sparsely until only a couple of blooms, from bulbs voracious voles missed, came up.

I have an ongoing battle with voles in my gardens. They seems to consume, from underground, much of what I’ve planted over the years while deer do the same from above.

I had nearly given up on having crocus in this spot when I learned about tommies – crocus tommasinianus – a type voles were reported to avoid.

I learned about tommies from a fellow blogger in response to my April 2011 post about voles eating my crocus, so in the autumn of 2011, I purchased two types of tommies, Crocus tommasinianus ’Barr’s Purple’ and ‘Ruby Giant’ and went about planting them in various places in my gardens – some frequented by voles, some not.

I was thrilled to see the tommies pushing up through the chilly late winter soils this past March.


Though the winter of 2011-2012 was mild in Connecticut, and voles had ample opportunity to tunnel through this planting of tommies, they still bloomed. Here’s how they looked 11 days later.


The ‘Barr’s Purple’ variety I planted elsewhere also bloomed beautifully, though, for some reason I have no photos to show.

The true test of the vole-resistance of Crocus tommasinianus will come with time … vole populations increase and decline according to many conditions, including weather and predator populations. I won’t yet, after just one year of watching, claim tommies as completely vole-proof. However, my experience with tommies shows that gardeners should never give up … You Can Grow That! Even if I get only a bit of joy from my tommie crocus blooms, it’s worth it.

You Can Grow That! is a blog meme seeded by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening, to remind everyone that gardening is good for people. It enriches our senses, our food, our health, fosters friendship and increases ones appreciation of nature. C.L. enlists the garden-blogging world to spread this news in posts on the fourth of each month. Read You Can Grow That! posts at Whole Life Gardening and at the newly created You Can Grow That! website.



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March 2012 Blooms in Connecticut

What a glorious few days … warm temperatures, strong sunshine, and blooms popping out all over. Time for spring bulbs to shine if they can escape the creatures so active in my Connecticut gardens.

Voles have managed to find most of the crocus I’ve planted. I imagine them gorging on crocus bulbs till full then happily transporting any unconsumed bulbs for storage elsewhere along their tunnels.  I’m sure they giggle at me under their vole breadth as they rearrange my crocus. I now have single bulbs  blooming here and there in places I never intended them to be. So much for planting in groups! I once had a beautiful stand of crocus planted on either side of my front steps right where they were most noticeable from the front door. Used to, until the voles ate their share and rearranged the rest.

Last autumn – on the promise of vole-resistance – I purchased Tommies, Crocus tommasinianus. I don’t yet know if they are truly vole-deterring or if my vole population declined because of no snow or the fox that found my front yard so appealing last summer, but the Tommies are blooming exactly where I planted them. These are ‘Ruby Giant.’



For many of the previous years my Tete-a-Tetes, one of the earliest blooming narcissi, were visited by a hungry deer just as they began to poke their fresh green shoots out of the ground. I’m sure the deer, who are not supposed to like narcissi/daffodils, were just as anxious to see greenery as I. Nonetheless, when I found my emerging Tete-a-Tetes with their tops chomped off, I hoped they caused the four-hooved forager to have an upset tummy.

Here’s what they looked like exactly one year ago.



This year, the garden idea fairy bonked me in the head with the old, rusty pitch fork remnants I have here and there. The head bonk worked. I came up with this method of protecting the Tete-a-Tetes and so far, so good.

These Tete-a-Tetes may be blooming in a pitch fork jail, but they are doing so with all leaves intact.



Today is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, a celebration of shared blossoms from across the globe, a garden party hosted on the 15th of each month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. You can visit there to see what’s going on in Carol’s garden and find links to all the garden bloggers who share their gardens with the world today. If you need a pick-me-up this is the place to find one.

Garden thoughtfully,


Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

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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