Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
March, 2005
Regional Report

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This crocus looks a little lonely, doesn't it?

Missing: 997 Crocus

Well, I've searched and my husband has searched, and there is a disturbing dearth of crocus in my garden this year. So far, only three, count 'em (we did!) ... three.

Now, ordinarily I am as thrilled as the next person to see crocus blooming in March. I love crocus! I love them so much that about ten years ago we planted a grand scheme of a thousand crocus bulbs in the yard. We planted plenty of the extra-tiny and extra-early snow crocus, a generous quantity of the so-called mammoth crocus in purple, and then some of my favorites -- the striped purple and white 'Pickwick'. Also some generic mixed because I love crocus so much I am not all that picky about what color they are, so long as they bloom and bloom early and there are gobs of them.

Well. The first year's display was a bit underwhelming. Even a thousand crocus do not make much impact over a big area; they were spread through three beds covering maybe 1000 square feet. So I thought to myself, just wait a few years. These little corms multiply like crazy, and pretty soon each single flower will become a clump 6 inches across with multiple flowers, and soon after that each clump will be so crowded I'll need to divide them up and transplant so there will be even MORE!

Now that may sound like pie-in-the-sky thinking, but it really wasn't. I read the bulb catalogs and drool along with the best gardeners out there; these bulbs should multiply from year to year! I've even tried it on a smaller scale in the past, just a couple hundred at a time in my previous suburban and town gardens, and had great results. Granted, those were planted in well-prepared garden beds along with perennials and annuals, but they were plain-Jane, run-of-the-mill crocus corms, same as these.

But that was in other gardens, not out in the country. As great as the idea was, the result is a spectacular nonevent, a total flop. Every year there have been fewer crocus instead of more. Over time the beds have been topdressed and mulched, the foliage has been encouraged to grow and thoroughly ripen, the corms have been left in place. They were planted in a sunny location with well-drained soil. I have not stepped on them or accidentally sliced them in half with my shovel during their dormant seasons.

The Culprit
What happened? As best as I can tell, the resident chipmunks ate them one by one, as if they were sinfully yummy little bonbons. The chipmunk population increased in direct correlation to the dwindling of the crocus. How they missed these three I'll never know. But I am thankful they did because, given the circumstances, I am just as thrilled to see these three precious blooms as I would have been to see a field full. Or, let's just say I am trying to convince myself that I am.

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