Careless Gardening, or Planting 200 Crocuses in 2 Minutes

Well, maybe 5 minutes. I’d wanted to get these corms of Crocus tommasinianus ‘Lilac Beauty’ planted for a while, but could never find the time when the weather was decent and the ground wasn’t a muddy mire. (How odd to write that after enduring this year’s drought.) When I woke this morning, I was possessed by an overwhelming urge to plant my crocuses before I left for work.

Crocus tommasinianus Lilac Beauty
Crocus tommasinianus ‘Lilac Beauty’
Photo: John Scheepers

It was simple enough:

  1. Dig shallow hole, about 5″ deep.
  2. Throw a bunch of crocuses in the hole. They should be about as crowded as the Red Line “L” train at 3 PM, but not as crowded as it gets at 5:30 PM.
  3. Cover up the hole.
Crocuses thrown in hole, about as crowded as an “L” train at 3 PM

In this way I was able to deposit the 200 crocuses, about 80 in one hole and 120 in the other, before heading to the office. (I took the picture above with my cell phone, so it is not up to Judy’s usual standards.)

This episode reminds me of one of the big changes in my approach to gardening since I started. I used to be a very careful gardener. If the catalog said space plants 14″, I would try to measure out 14″ – not 12″ or 16″.

With crocuses, the instructions generally say plant 3-4″ apart. As a result, you could find me on a blustery fall day, making little individual holes three inches apart, dropping a crocus corm in each hole, then smoothing over the ground.

That was before I had a startling revelation: plants, if they’re in the right kind of spot, are pretty resilient. For the most part they do not need to be coddled. They certainly did not evolve in nature depending on exact spacing provided by the elements. And the ones that do, to hell with them. I have prospered as a gardener by acting on this philosophy.

Admittedly, this is not a good approach to growing, say, orchids. But I have no interest in growing orchids.

But I do like growing crocuses. (And I checked and the plural is either crocuses or croci, in case you were wondering.) I’ve been fond of crocuses since I was a little kid. They provide a bright splash of color in early spring, when the landscape is still mostly brown and tan. Crocus tommasinianus is supposed to be more squirrel resistant. You need to plant them in big bunches to have an impact, though. And that’s where careless gardening makes life so much easier.

24 Comments on “Careless Gardening, or Planting 200 Crocuses in 2 Minutes

  1. I was out planting bulbs today, too! Similar method–several in a hole, but no where near 100! After reading that you had ordered from Scheepers, I looked into them, and that’s where I ordered mine this year. I think the prices were actually less than at any of our local nurseries or big box stores, and now that they’ve arrrived, I can see that the quality is far better. I can’t believe how huge the King Alfred daffodil bulbs are!

  2. Oh my, if you carry on like that, your garden will never look like an artificial flower arrangement from 1953! You, sir, are a rapscallion!

  3. MY goodness, 100 in the one hole, but i am a bit like that. I have about 20 mins to do this one job, which would usually take a lot longer, and off i go, but i usually find that i have to come back and fix it, or do it again.

  4. I think your method of planting is very good, and I do sometimes use that process myself.

    In this day and age, it’s either do it so it gets done, or do without. You will be happy this spring when it’s all beautiful.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  5. I’ve planted using the “train method” for many years! Not because I’ve had any big awakening, but because I’m too lazy to dig that many holes! This post has reminded me that I have forgotten to get any more crocus bulbs! I need to do that, just in case the ones from last year don’t come back (too crowded, I think). 😉

    • There’s nothing wrong with laziness. I think it is often laziness, not necessity, that is the mother of invention. Have you had experience with crocuses not coming back? That’s never happened to me – they always come back, and multiply.

  6. No square foot gardening for you – more like fractional inch gardening! While I have not been planting 100 of anything in one hole, I agree that many garden plants happily grow in closer proximity to each other.

  7. Every Midwest garden needs a few Crocuses. 😉 Wow, 200 is a lot! I think I need to add more to my garden! I have a few here and a few there… But, my goodness, they are welcome sights in March and April! I’ve never been a “perfect” gardener, but I would never think to put that many all together. I’m sure they will create an amazing mass planting next spring. I can’t wait to see your results!!

  8. I have add my feeling about the comment on Scheepers bulbs (and their sister company Van Engelen): The bulbs are excellent price and ALWAYS top- notch quality! Selection is very good, too.

  9. Haha…that sounds like me too! I used to be really anal…but by the time I get around to planting bulbs, it’s so wet and miserable that I just dig a hole, toss in a few bulbs and move on 😉

  10. Hi Jason, I think I’m still in the meticulous hand-planting stage. Last year, I individually planted 1000 snowdrops, making the holes with the handle-end of a wooden spoon. I got very efficient at it. The trouble I have is that all the borders are already planted up so I can’t make shallow planting holes without taking out planted plants. It all has to be done individually. The only opportunity I get is when I’m breaking ground in a new area, then I can use the shortcut method.

  11. Good point about not having the free space. It does need to be a new or newer bed. Though some plants that are widely spaced, such as some grasses or shrubs, still provide opportunities even in more established beds.

  12. I plant my siberian squill the exact same way. Way too much work to plant individually and you want the impact of a grouping anyway.

    • I love siberian squill! There’s a park here where there are just thousands and thousands in the lawn – a magnificent carpet of blue in spring. I have a few, waiting for them to spread themselves around.

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