- Crocus Lawns for a Joyful Spring
- John Scheepers2020
- Flowering Bulbs In Grass: How And When To Mow Naturalized Bulbs
- When to Mow Naturalized Bulbs
- How to Mow Flowering Bulbs
- Growing bulbs in lawns: tulips, crocus and more
- How to plant your bulbs
- Which bulbs to plant
- Pests and diseases
- Feeding bulbs in lawns
- Planting bulbs
- New lawns
- Established lawns
- Planting Bulbs in Grass
Crocus Lawns for a Joyful Spring
Crocusesare one of the best bulbs for naturalizing in a grassy lawn area. I’ve tried planting daffodils in a lawn area, and their foliage didn’t start fading until the grass was knee-high, a situation that didn’t make my lawn-loving husband happy. Crocuses bloom earlier than daffodils, so they have usually finished blooming and growing by the time grass starts growing in earnest. It’s not just matter of not wanting to mow down the bright blooms; if you want the bulbs to return and even multiply for next year, you have to give the foliage a chance to feed the bulbs after they’re done blooming.
The first step was to choose the varieties we wanted and order the bulbs. Rather than having everybody send a little box of bulbs, we decided it was easier for everybody to chip in for a bulk order. I turned to my favorite bulb suppliers to see if they had any good deals. We could have picked just one variety and planted it densely for the effect that was common in Amsterdam, but it was too hard to choose a single favorite.
We decided on a colorful combination of different kinds. I figured I could extend the blooming period by planting both early C. chrysanthus (Snow Crocus) and slightly later-blooming C. sieberi. In the end, I ordered over three thousand crocus bulbs! That seems like a lot until you realize that they are very small bulbs that can be planted a handful at a time. OK, it was still a lot. But the result was worth it.
Happily, several of my DG friends offered to come over and help plant, so we had a “crocus planting luncheon” last fall. I set everything up ahead of time so we could make the most of our afternoon. We ate, we visited, and we planted 1500 crocus bulbs! There are certainly a lot of ways to organize this sort of effort, but I’m hoping the way I went about it will give you some useful ideas for installing a crocus lawn of your own.
With several people planting at once, I wanted a way to get a fairly even distribution of bulbs without big gaps. I marked off the area I wanted to plant with flag stakes, creating a grid of squares about 4 feet on each side. I used landscapers’ chalk (white paint in a can that sprays downward) to mark the squares onto the grass. I calculated that 150 bulbs within each 16 square foot area would give me 9 or 10 bulbs per square foot, a good coverage for naturalizing.
You don’t need thousands of bulbs, but however many you plant, remember not to spread them out too much. Two hundred crocus bulbs scattered here and there in your front yard will almost disappear. But those same two hundred bulbs clustered in a 4 or 5 foot diameter circle would have stunning visual impact.
I could have mixed all my bags of bulbs together for a calico effect, but I wanted clumps of individual colors like a Persian carpet. Planting in clumps also gives the effect of bulbs that have naturalized and multiplied for several years. A big box of cheap sandwich bags helped me sort out an even distribution of bulbs. When planting a square, we’d load up a shoebox with one bag of each variety. Then we’d reach into one bag at a time to pull out a handful of bulbs for each clump.
The general rule of thumb for spring-blooming bulbs is to plant them two to three times as deep as their diameter. Since crocus bulbs are so small, they only need an inch or two or soil on top of them. The easy way to plant them in a lawn is to put them just under the sod. Use a small shovel to make a shallow cut into the grass, then lift up a flap of sod. Place a cluster of bulbs pointy end up, an inch or two apart. Press the flap of sod back into place on top of the bulbs.
During the planting party, we worked in teams of two. One person used a shovel to pry up flaps of sod, and the other person knelt down and placed the bulbs. We kept track of which squares of the marked grid had been planted by putting a plant marker in the center of each completed square. A friend sent me markers with wonderful labels such as “Planted with Love.” I asked everybody to sign the markers, also. Since I couldn’t leave metal markers sticking up in the lawn, I displayed them at the edge of a nearby bed.
I planted the remaining bulbs over the weekend, and then there was nothing to do but wait for spring. The winter has never seemed so long! Several major storms dropped a blanket of snow on our yard, and I could just imagine crocuses popping up under the snow. Sure enough, as the snow melted I spotted slender leaves and buds emerging between the grass blades. By Palm Sunday, a bright carpet of blooms could be seen from up and down the block.
Needless to say, Sunshine Girl took advantage of some warm spring days to play on her Crocus Lawn. I love that her first experience of being barefoot in the grass included all those pretty little blooms! I’m pretty sure she just thinks that’s the way grass is – filled with flowers. Come summer, she’ll have to make do with dandelions and clover.
The two species I chose bloomed for nearly a month. I tossed some fertilizer around, and we didn’t cut the grass in that area until the foliage started to fade. Not only did that let the bulbs plump up again, I am hoping we’ll also have more bulbs (and more blooms) for next year.
Celebrate the coming of spring with an unforgettable display. Plant a crocus lawn!
My heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to Sunshine Girl’s crocus lawn and to everybody who has celebrated with us since her arrival! A lot of people helped pray her into our arms. We’re truly blessed!
All photos by Jill M. Nicolaus. Move your mouse over images and links for more information (let the cursor hover for a few seconds, and a popup caption will appear).
If you are looking for heirloom flower bulbs, we carry several varieties of Crocus that would classify as heirloom. Sadly, the original Crocus tommasinianus is no longer grown commercially. If you need more heirloom options, please visit Old House Gardens.
1925 C. tommasinianus Roseus
1665 C. flavus Golden Yellow
1958 C. vernus Flower Record
1924 C. vernus Grand Maitre
1943 C. vernus Jeanne d’Arc
1934 C. vernus Vanguard
Horticultural Zone Hardiness
As a rule, all Species Crocus and Dutch Large Flowering Crocus are hardy in horticultural zones 4 through 8. If your garden is in a horticultural zone that is either too cold or only marginally suitable, you may want to apply no more than a 2″ layer of mulch after the ground surface freezes in the fall. The mulch should trap the cold temperatures into the soil, not warm temperatures. Mulch helps to protect the bulbs from arctic temperature spikes over the winter. Good mulching mediums include straw, salt marsh hay or oak leaves. In the spring, you can loosen the mulch in the area in which the Crocus will be sprouting. (Mulching lawn installations is not necessary or recommended.) Crocus normally survive late spring snow storms, so no worries.
Check your shipment against the packing slip and make sure that everything is as it should be. Occasionally, bags of smaller bulbs like Crocus may be placed in the inner boxes of other bulbs to reduce jostling during shipment. So if you can’t find something, open all of the inner boxes. If there is a discrepancy, please call us immediately so that we may resolve it with you. Since every bag or box of bulbs in your order has been scanned using its UPC barcode, we can usually tell you in which box each variety is located.
Inspect your bulbs carefully. We make every effort to ship you only healthy, firm, top quality bulbs.
Crocus bulbs look different from other types of flower bulbs. Crocus bulbs are really corms, with either a smooth (annulate) tunic or a fibrous (reticulate or netted) tunic. It is natural for some types of bulbs to develop a transportation mold: a natural gray-blue-green mold that occurs when they are exposed to air. This mold disappears as soon as the bulbs are planted. The soil wicks it away. If you prefer, you may spread the bulbs out in the sun or brush it off with a paper towel, although it is not necessary.
Little cuts, scars, discolored exteriors and dimples are normal marks from the flower bulb harvesting, cleaning and sizing processes in the Netherlands. Some bulbs may have a fully intact, papery skin while others have partial skins, and others may be skinless. The existence or condition of the bulb skin has nothing to do with the performance of the bulb. The most important factor is the way that the bulb feels. As long as the bulb is firm, it is a good and viable bulb. Some bulbs may already have tiny baby bulbs developing on the basal plate (root base) of the bulb while others may even have a little top shoot. Little noses or top shoots are not uncommon on Crocus bulbs. Some bulbs are prettier than others, but you can rest assured that all of the flowers will be gorgeous!
Species or Botanical Crocus naturally make a smaller top size bulb (corm) than the Dutch Large Flowering Crocus. Top size Species Crocus corms are 5 centimeters/up while the top size Dutch Large Flowering Crocus corms are 9 centimeters/up. If you find that there are varying sizes of corms in one bag, the smallest of the corms is, at a minimum, the top size specified for that variety. The corms are sized on conveyor belts in the Netherlands that have holes that are the centimeter size specified as top size. Smaller bulbs fall through these holes and are not included in our stock. All of the larger corms are included in our stock, and, as a result, there can be size variation because some corms are larger. (If any variety in our collection produces a smaller top size bulb from the annual harvest than expected, we will note it on our website. If a price change occurs as a result, we will post the new price and make an adjustment on every order.)
Bulb Storage Before Planting
After you’ve received your order and inspected it, keep the exterior carton and the inner boxes open to give the bulbs some air. All bulbs love good air circulation. Store them in a cool, dry place with low humidity, away from heat, frost and strong sunlight at about 50°F to 70°F. Never put flower bulbs in the freezer! Poor storage conditions could cause bulbs to dry out, or to become moldy.
Select and Prepare the Planting Site
For Species or Large Flowering Crocus, one should calculate planting about nine bulbs per square foot. Square footage is determined by multiplying the planting site’s length by its width.
All Crocus require neutral pH, well-draining soil in full to partial sunlight. The best soil is a sandy loam. For clay soil, break up the clay about a foot deeper than the planting depth of your bulbs and amend the bed with sand, peat moss and well-aged neutral-pH compost. For excessively sandy soil, amend the bed with peat moss and aged leaf compost.
Please do not ever add horse manure, chicken droppings, mushroom compost or other hot manure or compost to your flower bulb beds. If you would like to add compost you’ve made yourself, please make sure that it neutral pH and completely decomposed and healthy. Partially decomposed compost can spread pests and fungal disease. What is good for vegetables is not necessarily good for flower bulbs.
Species Crocus are the best for lawn planting (see below). The best lawns for Species Crocus tapestries are those in dappled sunlight under deciduous trees because the grass is usually less densely matted and vigorous, allowing the Crocus corms to develop mature root systems and corm offsets so that they may naturalize and flourish over time.
Crocus, Squirrels and Chipmunks
Sadly, squirrels and chipmunks love to eat Crocus corms and may dig up newly planted corms for an immediate snack, or for hidden transplant somewhere other than where you planted them. It is not the kind of garden surprise party that we like. Many people report that squirrels and chipmunks don’t like to eat Crocus tommasinianus hybrids as much as other Crocus. It is worth a try. Unless one is planting a huge Crocus tapestry installation, try outsmarting the squirrels by planting the Crocus later, shortly before the surface of the ground freezes, or place a piece of fine mesh chicken wire over the surface of the bed. Remove after soil freezes.
Planting Crocus in Garden Beds
Crocus corms are easy to plant and are low maintenance. Crocus should be planted once the ground has chilled down to about 55°F, after around two weeks of sweater weather when night time temperatures have hovered in the 40s.
Plant Species Crocus corms 4″ deep and 3″ to 4″ apart. We do not recommend planting them closer together. Crocus are good naturalizers and readily multiply by corm offsets: these are the baby corms that develop on the sides of the mother corm that you originally planted. Sometimes, when mature and happy over time, Crocus may even multiply by self-sowing seed.
Please do not put anything in the bottom of hole that you’ve dug for the bulbs. Nestle the bulb into the hole, fill in the hole with soil to the level of the bed, and tamp down the soil lightly, making sure that individual holes are no longer apparent and that the garden bed surface is level. This will help to prevent water from filling up any of the individual planting holes. All flower bulbs hate to get wet feet.
If you would like to do a layered or lasagna planting, first plant the Narcissi or Tulips to the proper depth and spacing, then cover them with enough soil to bring the Crocus planting depth to 4″ or 5″. Then, place all of the Crocus corms over the surface (3″ to 4″ apart) and cover them with soil even to the surface of the bed.
Planting Species Crocus in Lawns
We recommend that only Species Crocus be used for grass lawn installations because they bloom about two weeks before Dutch Large Flowering Crocus, because the corms are smaller and easier to plant, and because they do best over the long haul. Some say that Crocus tommasinianus cultivars, commonly referred to as Tommies like Barr’s Purple and Ruby Giant, are best for lawn plantings because they appear to not be the preferred bon bons for squirrels and chipmunks.
Again, the best lawns for Crocus tapestries are those in the dappled sunlight of deciduous trees: extremely dense grass lawns, normally in full sunlight, can strangle the growth of mature root systems and corm offsets, inhibiting naturalization. Depending on the density of the lawn’s grass, one may use a dibble or a small, sharp trowel to plant individual Crocus corms. If one is contemplating a large lawn installation, use of a sod cutter is an option. In sections, cut the sod on three sides, lift it up, position the Crocus corms and replace the sod.
After the beautiful lawn tapestry blooms, one must wait anywhere from five to seven weeks to mow the lawn: the foliage must die back naturally to permit maximum photosynthesis to nourish the Crocus corms so they may naturalize and thrive for future years of blooms.
Give your Crocus lawn tapestry priority treatment over the grass. Which means, do nothing. Do not rake up the lawn in the spring after the sprouts emerge, do not aerate the grass, do not apply any chemicals and do not install underground water sprinklers. Most of all, do not mow the lawn until the Crocus foliage has virtually disappeared. Just don’t look at it for a while after the Crocus bloom.
Stinze-Style Lawn Plantings
In the northern area of the Netherlands, primarily in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen, centuries-old stately homes often feature front lawns under deciduous trees carpeted with a succession of blooming flower bulbs. Those most commonly seen include Galanthus, Eranthis hyemalis, Iris reticulata, Species or Botanical Crocus, Dutch Large Flowering Crocus, miniature Narcissi, Species Tulips, Scilla and Fritillaria meleagris. These Stinze lawn gardens have naturalized over the centuries: the grass is not mowed until July some time, if at all.
Never put anything, including fertilizer, in the bottom of each bulb planting hole. Plant the bulbs to the proper depth and spacing, tamp down the soil and broadcast a 5-10-5 or 4-10-6 granular organic fertilizer over the surface of the bed as if you were feeding the birds.
While all flower bulbs are nature’s perfect little packages and will bloom beautifully the first year, we recommend broadcasting fertilizer three times a year for all perennial and naturalizing flower bulbs. First at the time of fall planting to help grow the roots, second when the sprouts emerge in the spring to help nourish the foliage and flower, and finally when the flowers start to die back, to help feed the bulb itself. Bone meal is incomplete nutritionally and can attract animals to some varieties of bulbs.
Do Not Plant in Exterior Containers or Raised Beds
Flower bulbs should never be be planted in outdoor containers, window boxes or raised beds where bulbs experience temperature spiking and repeat cycles of freezing and thawing. This results in root growth failure, root system destruction, frozen bulbs and/or bulb rot from poor water drainage. Flower bulbs must have a consistent cold winter temperature with good water drainage in order to produce a mature root system that will permit foliage growth and flower production in the spring.
Bloom Times, Size and Color
The bloom time listed for each variety is for horticultural zone 5 in normal spring conditions. The warmer the horticultural zone, the earlier Crocus will bloom in the Spring. The colder the horticultural zone, the later Crocus will bloom in the spring.
Flower bulbs do everything in response to temperature, sunlight and site conditions. Bloom times, heights and colors are approximations affected by temperature and site conditions regardless of the calendar date. If it is a warm spring, bulbs will bloom earlier. If it is a cold spring, bulbs will bloom later. If it is a long cool spring, followed by rapid warming, you may find odd bedfellows: earlier blooming Galanthus flowering right along side later blooming Crocus, Species Tulips and Narcissi. Each spring can offer a different sort of garden surprise party.
In the event of a mild winter or a warmer-than-usual spring, Crocus that have emergent stalks with set buds may bloom early, small and short, although they will likely grow taller and larger as long as temperatures moderate. Temperature spikes can also affect mature root development, the actual form of the flower or the process of flower color maturation.
All Crocus corms are good for forcing indoors over the winter. In mid-October, pot them up and prechill them at a consistent, dark 38°F to 45°F with moderate watering for eight to ten weeks. Bring them out of refrigeration into progressively stronger sunlight with moderate watering. They usually bloom around four weeks later. Once the corms are forced, their vitality is spent and the corms may be discarded.
If Crocus are yielding more foliage than flowers, it indicates a root system issue. A mature planting may need to be dug up in the fall and transplanted to the original depth and spacing after carefully separating the bulbs that may have been strangling themselves. In the case of a lawn planting, it could indicate that the grass is too heavily matted and that it is choking out the Crocus. This is most likely the case in heavily fed lawns in full sunlight with particularly rigorous grass strains.
Crocus factoid: Meaning saffron in Greek, Crocus sativus (not in our collection) is the variety used for the collection of saffron, the expensive spice threads that are the flower’s stigmas. One would need 75,000 flowers to yield just one pound of saffron!
Flowering Bulbs In Grass: How And When To Mow Naturalized Bulbs
Early spring bulbs look fantastic naturalized in grassy areas, but as pretty as they are, this planting method isn’t for everyone. The main drawback is that you have to delay mowing the lawn in spring, and the grass may begin to look a bit ragged before it’s safe to mow. Here are some things to consider before mowing bulbs in the lawn.
When to Mow Naturalized Bulbs
You have to wait until the foliage dies back naturally before mowing bulbs in the lawn. This allows the bulb to re-absorb the nutrients in the foliage and use the energy for next year’s blooms. Without these nutrients, bulbs make a poor showing the following year and over time they die out.
Small bulbs that bloom in early spring may die back before time for the first mowing. These include snowdrops, crocuses and squill. Tulips and daffodils may take several weeks to die back. It’s safe to mow when the leaves turn yellow or brown and lie limp on the ground. In most cases, the leaves lift off with no resistance.
How to Mow Flowering Bulbs
Consider the health of the lawn grass as well as the health of the bulb when mowing bulbs in lawn areas. If you’ve had to let the grass grow a little taller than usual, cut it back to its normal height gradually. Never remove more than one-third of the length of the blade in one mowing. If necessary, mow two or three times in a week until you get the lawn back to its suggested height, and then resume a normal mowing schedule.
If you have an uncontrollable itch to mow flowering bulbs in grass before they fade back completely, try an alternative planting site. Early spring bulbs flower before many ornamental trees leaf out. Once the foliage fills in, the shade helps disguise the fading foliage, and grass grown in shade is normally maintained at a taller height than that grown in the sun. Planting under the branches of a small, ornamental tree is a good compromise for many gardeners. In areas shaded in early spring, you can use woodland bulbs that tolerate shade like:
- Wood anemone
- Dog-tooth violet
- Star of Bethlehem
If you can’t delay the mowing maintenance of bulbs in the lawn, try planting them in out-of-the-way grassy areas. Brightly colored bulbs show up better than grass at a distance, so you don’t have to be close to enjoy them.
Growing bulbs in lawns: tulips, crocus and more
One of the great delights of spring is a grassy area peppered with the jewel-like colours of flowering bulbs. Dog tooth violets (erythroniums), snake’s head fritillaries, croci and narcissi are just some of the spring flowers that would look beautiful in your garden. So whether you need inspiration or a complete how-to-guide, here is our advice on growing bulbs in lawns…
How to plant your bulbs
The key is to aim for an informal, natural effect with no straight lines and all the bulbs mixed up. This means varying the planting spaces, combine different bulbs and planting them randomly.
There are two ways to create this effect – so first decide if you can live with a slightly untidy lawn for part of the year. If you have the space, you could devote a part of the garden to spring bulbs and just mow a path through it, giving the rest of the lawn its first cut in July or August. This will allow the bulbs to bulk up after flowering and set their seeds.
If you want to mow in early April you will need very early flowering bulbs that will have set seed by the time you are ready to cut.
Which bulbs to plant
Early flowering lawns
Plant smaller bulbs such as:
- Galanthus elwesii and G. nivalis – Snowdrops
- Crocus tommasinianus, C, crysanthus
- Muscari armeniacum
Later flowering lawns
There is a much bigger selection, and you can include the selection above in your choices:
- Narcissus Pseudonarcissus – our native daffodil, N. nanus, N. minor
- Hyacinthoides non-scripta – native English bluebells
- Leucojum vernum – snowflake
- Tulipa sylvestris and Darwin tulips
- Fritallaria meleagris
- Erythonium dens-canis – dog’s tooth violets
- Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus
Pests and diseases
Squirrels can completely ruin an entire back-breaking session of bulb planting. Two ways to prevent this are to plant the bulbs in the green (with all their leaves and roots in spring) or to pin a wire or plastic mesh over the areas planted until the bulbs start to grow.
Never plant any bulbs that look old, shrivelled, soft, badly streaked or diseased. Your plants will be in top-notch condition only if purchased from a reputable supplier.
Feeding bulbs in lawns
Feed them with a high-potash feed like Tomorite. High nitrogen feeds will just make the grass grow faster and compete with the precious bulbs.
Bulbs usually need to be planted at a depth of 3-5 times their own height. A well-prepared soil will include a pinch of bonemeal and some sharp sand to help drainage.
Time the planting of your new lawn for September or October when the bulbs will be readily available from the wholesale supplier. The new soil is prepared and then the bulbs planted wherever they have landed after being scattered in a random pattern on the lawn.
Bulbs can be planted in the green. They should be planted as soon as they are received at the same depth as they were grown. Alternatively, they can be planted while they are dormant in autumn.
The ground can be prepared by lifting the turf carefully with a spade or turfing iron, loosening the soil underneath, planting the bulbs and finally rolling the turf back firmly. You can also use a bulb-planting tool, to lift a soil plug from the ground and create a hole in which you can plant the bulbs quickly. A lawn aerator is a quick way to plant up finer and smaller bulbs.
Planting Bulbs in Grass
We welcome back our resident gardening guru Geoff Stebbings from www.thebikinggardener.com with his tip for what we should be doing in our garden this month.
Spring may seem a long time off but now is the right time to plant bulbs. You can leave planting tulips till November but small bulbs such as crocus, scillas and miniature daffodils should be planted as soon as possible and these are the perfect bulbs for naturalising in grass.
Selecting the right bulbs is very important. Unless you want your lawn to look scruffy into June and beyond you should choose early-flowering bulbs. You must allow the leaves to develop at least six weeks after the flowers fade before you mow. For this reason it is best to plant the bulbs in drifts rather than scatter them all over the lawn – it looks better too!
You can buy ‘naturalising mixtures’ but I would avoid these random mixes and plant one or two varieties together for the best effect. Miniature and dwarf kinds look best in small areas. I would avoid heavy-headed doubles and very fancy kinds which, though lovely, look wrong in a natural setting – a bit like going to see Yorkshire Terriers in a safari park!
When it comes to choosing your daffodils you can’t go wrong with the vigorous but petit (and affordable) ‘Tête-à-tête’ but the pale ‘Elka’, slightly taller ‘Surfside’ and bright ‘Jetfire’ are also hard to beat. The hoop petticoat daffodil (Narcissus bulbocodium) is hardy and rather special whether you go for the traditional yellow such as ‘Golden Bells’ or the creamy white ‘Spoirot’. You can plant them with a bulb planter, taking out cores of turf or, for these smaller bulbs, lift patches of turf and peel them back. This is the perfect way to mix in some crocus and scillas too. Small daffodils and crocus can be spaced about 5-8cm apart and about 5cm deep. A sunny site is best for most daffodils but slight shade is OK too. Just replace the turf and away you go.
The idea with this tool is to push down on the soil, twisting right and left, thus boring a hole into the ground of the required depth, then you pull out a plug of earth. Next drop the bulb in the hole and put the plug back in. Presto, you’re done! It certainly sounds easy enough.
In actual fact, though, it rarely releases the plug on its own. You need to push it free or bang the tool on the ground, with the result that the plug falls apart and you usually end up using your hands to fill in the hole. Even spring-loaded models, supposedly designed specifically to release the plug easily, rarely do so without some extra effort.
And that’s not the only problem. The resulting hole is only wide enough for one medium size bulb, say a tulip, a hyacinth or a daffodil. It’s too wide for crocuses, squills, snowdrops, etc. and too narrow for crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis). I’ve yet to see a bulb planter with an adjustable diameter.
Plus bulbous plants are generally too small to make much of an effect if planted alone: they need to be planted in groups. Try planting 20 tulip bulbs with a bulb planter and you’ll see: it requires a lot of effort.
Also, the current recommendation for tulip bulbs is to plant them extra deep, 12 inches (30 cm) down. This not only puts them out of the reach of squirrels, it helps perennialize them. Yet the average bulb planter is only about 6 inches (15 cm) high. So you’d have to drill a second hole on the bottom of the first one it get it right.
In my experience, it is far easier to use a simple garden shovel, which you already own, I’m sure, to dig a larger hole in which to place several to many bulbs at once. With a shovel, you can easily adjust the depth as required. For any precision planting, like when you’re planting bulbs in between established plants, a garden trowel does an equally good job and requires less effort than a bulb planter. And you probably already own one as well.
So, at least in my experience, this is one tool the average gardener really can live without!