April 01, 2020 3 min read

My wish site for a bed of crocus under the birch tree.

The idea of a colorful crocus carpet under the large birch tree at my home in Connecticut has been in the back of my mind now for several years. And going to the Kings Garden at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen this spring for the Design Leadership Summit finally spurred my thoughts into action. I am counting on unsuspecting Paul and my boys to pick up the bulb digging where I left off!

 The King's Garden in Copenhagen.

Rosenborg Castle is one of the many great Renaissance buildings in Copenhagen built by Christian IV (1577-1648). The landscape design for the castle began in 1606 under the direction of Hans Konig and Martin de Cuder and their plans show extensive areas for fruits, vegetables and herbs laid out within the castle walls. Under Christian IV's son, Frederik III (1609 - 1670), walking avenues in the Baroque style were added.

Rosenborg Castle and plans for the King's Garden.

A portrait of King Christian IV by Dutch painter Karel van Mander II. Could I ever command as imposing a figure directing the planting of crocus corms? 

 

The crocus lawn at Rosenborg as we see it today is a contemporary feature added to the garden park during the 1950's. The lawn was designed by the royal gardeners, Ingwer Ingwersen and Erna Sonne Friis, in a simple, repeating pattern of different shades of purple and white crocus. Old House Gardens describes the massive 36' wide by 525" long crocus lawn as it springs into bloom: " From one end, the eye sails up the sea of crocus, more than 200,000 corms planted in rich purple weave across the moat to the castle."

I spent a whole morning excitedly measuring and photographing the crocus lawn. When I arrived at the Summit conference that afternoon I couldn't believe my luck at being seated next to Robert Truskowski, one of the world's top landscape architects! Whatever did I think I would ask him? My house is not formal but a sprawling old colonial with a Craftsman style addition, the focus being low key and cozy with all windows looking out upon the surrounding fields and stone walls. I realized that the best plan of action was to leave Mr. Truskowski alone and perhaps go with the original idea of an unstructured naturalized crocus carpet that would bring out the beauty of our property's only birch tree.

Along with Snowdrops, Crocus are the freshest and brightest signs of Spring.

While at dinner in Stockholm later that week, I dined with yet another of the world's top landscape architects (what are the odds?), Stephen Suzman of Zeterre Landscape Architecture. Stephen described the importance of incorporating historical elements and things one loves into a garden to give it some personal depth and meaning. This is something Rhonda and I always try to implement  for our interior design clients when decorating a home -  to make the project highly personal to the homeowner and to help them achieve a vision or long held dream.

That was it. Time to realize my own vision. Crocus Lawn, ho!

The plans for my crocus bed under the birch tree are now quite a bit looser than the Rosenborg crocus lawn (Paul is breathing a huge sigh of relief!).

I am most inspired by these photos from England of the Temple at Kew Gardens (left) and the Great Lawn at Dartington (right).

But what if I run out of steam with piles of crocus corms languishing in boxes? Forcing bulbs couldn't be easier and is a super solution for those of us with over-zealous catalog ordering tendencies. I covet these early Wedgewood stoneware bulb pots, especially the faux agate one on the right.

 Bulb pots from the Skinner catalog of the Kadison Collection of Wedgewood.

A detail of Colchicum from a series of botanicals by an Eleish van Breems favorite- Crispin de Passe's Hortus Floridus. Pphoto from the collection at Trillium Rare Prints.

 

The Crocus Ring

Come, show me a crocus ring,

That dances round a bush of green,

And I will make a lovely thing

To match the magic seen.

                         - Ivor Gurney


Some hardworking and helpful suppliers of crocus bulbs are our Connecticut neighbors
at Van Engelen, Inc. and White Flower Farm  as well as C.J. Ruigrok & Sons.

With all this inspiration and enthusiasm, I can't wait until Springtime!