Tag: voles

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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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.



Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry