Bathed in soft, late-winter sunlight, the champagne flute shaped flowers of crocuses are a welcome sight early in the year – after a long, cold and often bleak period in the garden they are a sign that spring is on its way. These versatile bulbs are perfect in beds, borders and pots but are ideal for naturalising in lawns due to their size, fleeting appearance and low-key leafy growth that disappears by late April.
Naturalising them in autumn is easy. Simply grab a handful of bulbs and drop, planting them more or less where they fall – dig small holes with a narrow trowel, 15cm deep. Don’t pepper the lawn with bulbs or the display will look artificial. For a naturalistic look that’s easy on the eye, plant large groups of crocuses in several places, such as around the base of trees or in swathes around the edges.
These diminutive flowers are largely native to Central and Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Plant breeding on these wild species has led to the introduction of hundreds of different varieties. Not all are good for naturalising. Among the best are the varieties of Crocus tommasinianus and Crocus vernus, or Dutch crocus, which come in shades of yellow, white, lilac, mauve and purple.