In modern gardens it is spring-flowering crocuses that capture our imagination. Small wonder when they provide weeks of vivid colour, which brings whole stretches of the garden to life. They are among the easiest and most carefree of spring bulbs: once planted, many of the species will naturalise, spreading freely from seed and spontaneous division of their corms. Crocus tommasinianus is probably the most prolific of the lot, their corms magically multiplying so the dark ground is soon awash with their pale lavender flowers.
Burgeoning crocus present no problem to later planting schemes – their foliage will have died down by the time perennials get going. Though they should be planted in the autumn, now is the time to see them and select those you really care for. Garden centres and nurseries often sell them in full flower at this time of year (although this is an expensive way to buy them) and public gardens and parks have great displays. Any garden with an alpine house will probably boast a selection of the choice and dainty species for close-up perusal.
If you want to plant crocus in grass, plunge a narrow trowel, dibber or a broken wooden spade handle into the turf 15cm deep, dropping one corm into each hole as you go. Plant them in multitudes, but randomly, sometimes close together, sometimes with plenty of breathing space. And be prepared to forgo cutting the grass until late April when the foliage will have died down after refuelling the corms. Planting one variety creates the most lyrical picture – try any of the chrysanthus varieties, such as ‘Zwanenburg Bronze’, ‘Snow Bunting’, ‘Cream Beauty’ or ‘Gypsy Girl’ – but if you want rainbows, go for the Dutch hybrids.