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Crocus bulbs

These are the most bee-pleasing bulb of all, because the goblet of petals traps warm air, and warmth helps nectar flow. Smaller-flowered crocus flower first, usually by February, and among the stars are the purple and white ‘Ladykiller’ and the silver-blue ‘Blue Pearl’. These are best in warm, open sites: they do not like being in grass. Mice can devour the bulbs, so if you have these, protect the bulbs with pieces of chicken of wire, or get a cat and train it up!

Large crocus, related to the alpine species Crocus vernus, make excellent plants in the border or lawn, and they are not so fussy about drainage. The earliest is a Russian-collected silver and purple called ‘Vanguard’, that flowers two weeks after the smaller ones and two weeks before the larger ones - hence its name. Later ones include the purple and white striped ‘Pickwick’ and the full-flowered ‘Remembrance’. Known as Dutch crocus they are real stalwarts, returning year after year.

Planting Tips

The general rule of thumb is to plant all your bulbs at least twice the depth of the bulb. Wear gloves if you have sensitive skin because some bulbs do irritate the skin (particularly hyacinths), and always wash your hands afterwards as they are often treated with a fungicide.

A small trowel is the most useful tool in the border, but a garden spade is best when planting in grass. Cut a foot-long v-shape in the grass, as if it were two sides of a triangle, and lift the v-shaped flap of turf. Break up the soil underneath with a garden fork and place the bulbs in the triangle and then stretch the flap of turf in your hands to distress it slightly. Replace the turf, trimming if you have to.

If you’re planting a border, avoid any straight lines unless it’s in a cutting garden. Randomly throw them on the ground and plant where they land. This looks far more natural. If it’s a large area and you have a small child, you can copy the famous Miss Ellen Willmott of Warley Place in Essex. She placed the small child in a wheelbarrow with a sack of bulbs and pushed it along whilst they showered the ground with bulbs.

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