Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Crocuses and My Favorite Bulb Source

Crocus chrysanthus 'Goldilocks' (Species crocus)
From In the Garde
Those diminutive harbingers of spring have begun blooming in my garden here in Tennessee and they are most welcomed. In addition to the crocuses blooming the spring peepers have begun their peeping. Can spring be far behind?
Crocus tommasianus (Species Crocus)
From In the Garden
Today I thought I would not only share some crocuses but also talk about my favorite bulb source. I love bulbs. The anticipation of planting those bulbs in the fall with visions of sweeping vistas of color come early spring is rite of my fall gardening. The joy I get seeing the bulbs poke through the snow or grass or mulch is not only one of relief (the voles didn't get all the bulbs), but one of anticipation. How will all the bulbs look once blooming? When will they bloom? Did I make good choices when choosing my bulbs?
'Blue Pearl', 'Cream Beauty', and 'Goldilocks' species (Chrysanthus) crocuses.
From In the Garden
I've always been an adventurous gardener and tend to choose plants based on their uniqueness. Years of gardening have taught me this is not always the best method to choose bulbs. I must first consider my environment and what kind of bulbs will do well here, then I must consider the track record of the bulbs, and finally the price of the bulbs. Most of us don't have unlimited garden funds so I try to be thrifty with what bulbs I purchase for my garden. Bulbs more than anything else can be a hit or miss plant and I don't wish to waste money on the misses so I've begun focusing on a bulbs proven stamina. I want long lasting bulbs that will not slowly pitter away in my garden. They must not only be strong but I'd like them to spread and naturalize here in my woodland style garden. Knowing what I want from a bulb and what kind of garden and environment I garden in makes it most easy for me to think about the bulbs I'd like to grow. Van Engelen then does the rest with the best prices I have found.

Van Engelen is a sister company to John Scheepers bulbs. I like both companies but Van Engelen is a bit cheaper. Most likely due to the bulb size or quality but honestly, I can't tell the difference and all bulbs I have ordered from Van Engelen have been top notch bulbs that bloom well. 

I've done a lot of checking out bulb catalogs and actually sit down and compare prices on all bulbs I wish to order by catalog. This usually means I have about 5-6 catalogs open to the same bulb before I make a decision. The places I have ordered bulbs from are: Jung, Brent and Becky's Bulbs, and Netherland Bulb Company. I am going to list some price differences of one of my favorite bulbs here on this post. I am only comparing my personal experiences with bulb purchasing to the companies I have actually purchased bulbs from. I will give you an example of the price differences: 

Van Engelen:     100 fritillaria meleagris   $16.50 Size 6 cm/up
John Scheepers: 100 fritillaria meleagris   $18.50 Size 6 cm/up
Competitor 1:    100 fritillaria meleagris   $31.00  Size 7 cm/up
Competitor 2:    100 fritillaria meleagris   $40.75  Size not listed

As you can see there is quite a price range for these bulbs and this is only one type of bulb. I have personally ordered and researched this particular bulb but similar results are available for other bulbs. Most of the websites I visited did list the size of their bulbs and as you can see the more expensive bulbs are a slight bit bigger. Bigger is always better unless you want quantity, then price must trump size.  I can attest for the smaller bulbs growing just fine and personally I don't think a 15% size difference accounts for a nearly 50% price difference, but each person has to make their choice on what they want for their gardens. Me, I'm economical and go with the cheaper priced bulbs for my garden and feed the bulbs very well.

I will say one other great thing for Scheepers/Engelen. Their catalogs are the best I have found for variety and information listed. Under all bulbs; which are categorized by type such as species crocus, hybrid crocus, etc; the date the bulb has been introduced is listed. For my garden I like to buy the bulbs that have been around a long time so the date of introduction is very important. I also prefer species type bulbs and this is also listed in an easy to understand format. The Scheepers catalog has beautiful color pictures of all bulbs but the Van Engelen catalog does not. I usually use the Scheeper catalog to shop then go to Van Engelen to make my order. The quality of both sister companies is the same but Scheepers is more expensive and quantities available for order may vary between the two companies.

The species (Chrysanthus) collection of crocus bulbs I ordered are stunning in the garden and are growing well. I am looking for them to multiply and spread around a bit too in the coming years. I have been most pleased with my orders from Van Engelen and while most folks order bulbs in the fall, you might be one who orders spring bulbs. If so, check out Scheepers/Van Engelen for all of your bulb needs. The other place I usually order from is The Netherland Bulb Company. They are a good company that has good prices for a large amount of bulbs and their customer service is outstanding.

In the coming weeks I'll be showcasing some other bulbs from my Fall 2010 bulb purchase from Van Engelen and I hope they shine as the crocuses do....

in the garden....

I received nothing from Van Engelen or Scheepers to write this post. 

Tomorrow is the Nashville Lawn and Garden show and I, along with a few of my friends will be in attendance. I am so excited as this is one of my can't miss garden events of the year. The other being Summer Celebration. I hope to post on this year's show this Friday. For now, I'm in the garden...

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. I for one, appreciate this post Tina. I have never ordered bulbs, although have considered it. Having limited knowledge of bulbs has kept me receiving pass-a-longs and purchasing at the local nursery. As much as I LOVE pass-a-longs they tend to be the same ones over and over again. Every now and then a gardener needs something a tad bit different. Love your crocus swath here.

  2. Crocus are late here, having just come up last week. Have fun at the show!

  3. Thanks for all of the great info on bulbs. I hope you and your friends have a blast at the show tomorrow. I wish we were in Nashville. I would surely go. Can't wait for your post on the show. Tell your family "hello" for me. Carla

  4. So good to see all these crocuses blooming in your garden, Tina! I try to be frugal in my bulb buying, too, and appreciate this helpful information. I usually buy bulbs from different sources, even the big box stores:) Tulips are my favorite, and I buy more of these than anything, especially since they don't last as long. One thing I noticed in last fall's catalogs is that some companies now list the average life of a bulb, which I appreciated. I'd rather buy--and spend time planting--something that's going to live for several years than have to start over every fall.

  5. Oh the colour is fantastic! We've just got the pale purple crocus and some orange ones here.

  6. Darla, I hope it is helpful. When you begin comparing bulbs and prices it is a big job to both choose the right bulb and to find the right price. This is my source and a good one. The owner was recently featured on one of my garden shows and he is indeed a Dutchman. It's a pretty big conglomerate.

    Les, Thanks! Our crocuses seemed late at first but recently everything has popped.

    Carla, You'd have a great deal of fun! This is such a good garden show I can hardly wait. Wilco!

  7. Rose, Bulbs are great and they can be pricey for sure. I like it that the catalogs list average life. That's a good thing. I buy from big box too but the selection is usually limited to so few that it is frustrating. Check out Scheepers-they have a great selection and sometimes for big box prices or cheaper.

    Heather, The pale purple ones are like my favorite. They are so happy and perfect in the garden.

  8. I like how you planted the crocus with the stepping stones. Great idea. It is amazing difference in prices. I think once you get them in your garden, your soil and care will determine how they do past the first year of blooming so if you can give them some extra love they'll do well. Have a blast at the garden show!

  9. GSS, Thanks! I had a pretty good idea with putting the crocuses there because I can enjoy them right in the front in a center spot, they are somewhat protected and there is a pattern. I normally don't plant bulbs in the grass but the crocuses will be gone before I mow. I'm very happy about that. There are two more colors too but they haven't bloomed yet. Not sure why but it's okay. Wilco on the show!

  10. They're beautiful Tina! Thanks for posting your research on bulb prices - wow - quite a difference!

    Have a wonderful time at the garden show! Ours starts this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it too, and to meeting up with garden blogging friends.

  11. Love seeing the colorful bulbs, so much earlier there. Lol, I was hoping your favorite bulb source might be Ann Arbor's own Old House Gardens, but fair enough! :)

  12. I have bought all of my bulbs from Van Engelen and Scheepers -- except for a "sale" order from High Country Gardens. Their bulbs were wonderful with 100% bloom the first spring. I didn't plant any this past fall and am now regretting it as I had really wanted to add more drumstick allium in with my agastache.

  13. I've only recently ordered any bulbs in the mail. I usually get mine from the discount racks! I think bulb plants are the one type of plant that I'm really lacking in my garden.

  14. Very interesting price comparison. I have purchased only a few bulbs prior to coming here, at Brent and Becky's (on sale). Here in town is a bulb place, Marlboro Bulbs, and their prices aren't bad, but again, I go for the sales. I also limit my purchases to ones the voles wouldn't eat (though I GIVEN some tulips) so this spring will be interesting to see how well everything does. Oh, forgot, I did get some Scilla and Muscari too. Gotta have a little color variation.

  15. Linda, I know you'll have a great time at the show with blogging friends. Tis the season!

    Monica, I must go check them out now! Don't worry, spring can't be far...

    Cameron, Thank you! I have found these are great companies and your validation is much appreciated. Have you tried Netherland Bulb company? They are pretty good too. Great quantities and really good deal on allium globemaster. I love those bulbs!

    Dave, Discount racks are fabulous. I buy a lot of mine there too but for more selections you must go to catalogs. Try these two as they are near discount prices for better quality bulbs.

    Janet, I have that problem too. The voles! They are pesky critters and I've been stomping the ground a lot this year. Muscari are a favorite bulb they don't seem to bother. I like planting those over other bulbs because I can see where bulbs are in the fall when I go to plant more. I wish scilla did better for me but they don't do as well. Not sure why. I hope all your bulbs return this year!

  16. Great Information Tina! I have just started adding bulbs to my gardens (thanks to your pushing me) LOL but I do not have any crocus as of yet. I forget about them for some reason then am reminded of them on spring blogs! I should not forget them as they are the first ones to arrive! Nice to know that catalog ordering is the way to go with lots of bulbs for the buck. The big box stores want so darn much for bulbs these days. I usually look for them at the end of the season when on sale but still pricey in my book.

    I wish I could go to the Nashville show with you, sigh. Our local Home and Garden show was nice and we met Paul James! I did not take the camera with me so no pics of our little chat with him….

  17. Isn't it amazing how much those Dutch bulbs have come down in price? They used to be worth more than their weight in gold. I try to add a few more each year, and this year, I think it's time to divide some clumps of daffs. They're multiplying nicely. Another one I want to try growing here is the Fritillaria. Thanks for the heads-up on sources and prices.

  18. I love the crocuses and I must get more as I only have the purple ones. In my humble opinion a yellow flower could put a big smile on the face of the world's most crabiest (is that a real word or is it just spelled wrong) person!!!!

    I also compare prices with everything, even my seeds. I make a paper with the names of the catalogs down the paper and then I put the plant or seed pack prices on the top and go to the many places on line or go thru the catalogs and write it all down. I have a blank master sheet with just all the columns on it that I made and when I need one I just make a copy (love my printer/copier). Sometimes I need many sheets for all the companies, but I find it very helpful. It is quite time consuming but time is more available since I retired. Gotta love it.

  19. Bardzo też lubię krokusy i mam ich sporo w swoim ogrodku, ale jeszcze niestety nie zakwitły i cieszę oko tymi na zdjęciu.Pozdrawiam

  20. Skeeter, So glad you got the hellebore and held onto it. Sometimes waiting on a plant makes it all the more special. Yup, we'd have a great time if you were here gal!

    W2W, Yes! I'm glad I can buy bulbs and love them so. Do try the fritillara. My only complaint with them is the foliage looks like grass so you really need to be careful when weeding. Plant them where they can be enjoyed up close. They are sweet!

    Mom, I think I learn price comparison from you and it does pay off. Especially when buying plants; which are not necessary in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes they can just be downright indulgent but wow, what a return. I'm so glad your seedlings are doing well. Won't be long now and you'll be digging in the dirt. Very very warm here.

    Translation Giga's comment.

    We also like the crocuses, and I have a lot of them in your garden, but unfortunately not yet bloomed and I am an eye on those zdjęciu.Pozdrawiam

    Gigi's, They are sweetest little bulbs aren't they? Won't be long and spring will hit Poland soon!

  21. Great post Tina. I will have to check out John Scheepers and VE again, and compare their prices to Terra Ceia. Brent and Becky's are really good for unusual bulbs, especially the depth of their daffodil collection. I ordered bulbs for the first time in many years last fall from TC but I'd like to order daffs every year for a while, especially since voles leave those alone.

    Love those tommy crocus! I want to try to get those started in our lawn. That would be some very tough digging for the voles.

  22. Wow Tina they are so beautiful. Even the location where you planted them seems to very organized and well-thought of! It is good the path walk is wide because one has to stop by and contemplate on their beauty when passing by them.

  23. Love them Tina! My yellow crocus came up last week, my daffodils out front are completely open and the rows back by the farm are slowly but surely getting there -can't wait to snap a few pictures of my lil bundle by them:) Sidekick suggested he get his picture by them too, he is such a ham:0) We took down another white pine and cleaned it up today. They have all slowly and sadly died -but we plan on putting two apple trees where it was:0) And, my curly willow is still growing like crazy -it surely was a great idea and I always think of you when I watch it growing so nicely -thanks Tina! Hey girls hope you all have a great day tomorrow! Ciao!

  24. Sweetbay, I have never heard of Terra ceia but will be checking them out myself. These tommies are in a gravelly mix near the driveway-tough digging indeed. They are sweet in the lawn so far.

    Andrea, Glad you like the location. I really wanted it close by where I could view it nicely and between the patio blocks made sense to make it organized a bit. Not that my garden is organized. lol

    Anoymous, Be sure to send me a picture of Lil bundle and Sidekick by the daffys. I'd love to see them both as I know they have all grown. It's amazing how quickly time passes. Those willows grow might fast. Keep it pruned up the way you like it now while it is small and it will work out well when it is big. It is hopefully soaking up some of that moisture. Sorry about the white pines. The location was bad and you know they just don't do well here. I'm not sure on the apple trees but if the area is not well drained they could have issues. Good luck on them. It will be nice to have fresh apples!

  25. Hello all, Tina, Nina Anonymous, Jean, Skeeter & Dawn. What a great post Tina. I've always bought the few bulbs at the big box store & they are expensive. Now I know due to your post that there is another way. Bulbs are so nice once they are in the ground, no worry.
    Have a great time at the show. Wish I were there. We would have a ball.

  26. Tina what a great post! Love your Crocus checkerboard? But the information is the greatest! Thanks for doing 'our' homework. I do try to look at different catalogs and see who is the most for certain things I'm interested in and how much shipping will be also but I really haven't ordered from catalogs much. I do love bulbs but guess I just don't get around to it so I get what I want at local nurseries.
    I'm going to the site you mentioned though and have a look.
    Thanks again for a most informative post that was also very enjoyable.

  27. Hello

    Thank you, tina, for a lovely post that began my day with a happy smile! As I've been dealing with the issue and feeling a little low, your post makes me happy! I love the way you've planted the crocuses. All of them are pretty. Love particularly the light purple ones. They are mysteriously beautiful!

  28. Your crocus are quite charming peeking between the flagstones! I hope mine bloom soon, but darned if it didn't get cold again. Snow today!