Naturalising means bulbs growing and seeding as they would in the wild; i.e. “in nature”. In some gardens this means growing bulbs in grass instead of borders.
To naturalize bulbs they need to be planted where they can remain undisturbed without the need for the foliage to be prematurely removed. Leaves need to die back for about six weeks after the flowers have faded.
Growing Bulbs in Grass
- Crocus will thrive for years if planted in grass with a dry or fast draining soil. If the lawn is lush and gets lots of high nitrogen fertilizer it will stunt the flowering process of the bulbs. You’ll get lots of foliage but no flowers.
- Plant in groups or clusters so you can mow the other area.
- You need to be patient as a bulb seedling will take 5-7 years before it has built up reserves to flower. Above all do not deadhead the flowers so they can seed a couple of months after flowering.
- Plant species bulbs rather than showy doubles.
Bulbs to grow in thin Grass
- Wood Anemonies will self seed and naturalise in a woodland glade
- Hardy cyclamen multiply by seed dispersal and naturalise.
- Winter aconites are also good naturalisers.
- For yellow ‘wild’ daffodil varieties try Narcissus lobularis and the Tenby daffodil Narcissus obvallaris.
- The dramatic white Narcissus ‘Actea’ follows a bit later and if you can wait the May flowering Pheasant Eye daffodil, Narcissus poeticus recurvus can be spectacular.
- Some bulbs do better than others in grass including Iris danfordiae and reticulata, Grape Hyacinth Muscari, Scilla, Snowdrops and small Daffodils but Crocus perform best.
- Snowdrops should be planted when they are still in the green – not dried bulbs.
- Wet ground may help Snakeshead Fritillaries.
When and How to Plant Crocus in Grass
- Crocus are sold as corms or bulbs from late summer.
- September- October is a good time to plant new crocus as the soil begins to cool down and the autumn rains begin.
- Cut an H-shape in the grass and peel back the two flaps of turf. Add some fertiliser and loosen the soil.
- Leave plenty of space for the bulbs to increase over the years
- Do not plant in straight lines but scatter to give a natural look
- Crocus tommasinianus is one of the best variety for naturalising in grass.
Other Tips for Growing in Grass
- Do not over complicate your design or choice of bulbs.
- Avoid the garish mixes of colour.
- Simple swathes look far more natural and that is what you are aiming for.
- Strong bulbs will do better than weak varieties as they can push through the turf. Dutch crocus Pickwick and remeberance are recommended varities of crocus.
- Don’t for get wild daffodils for grassy banks.