During the dark days of winter, a garden can get a little gloomy. With so few flowers to enjoy, tending a winter garden can become something of a chore. A few bright blooms can really perk up a plant lover’s spirits and help bring a little of spring’s glory to the worst of winter.
Bulb-borne flowers are some of the brightest and most dramatic plants of springtime. They can also make winter glow with scent and color. When forced indoors, bulbs make spring seem like it’s just around the corner.
Forcing bulbs isn’t as harsh as it sounds. It’s simply the process of coaxing them into bloom before their proper season arrives. Think of it as tricking them in to thinking that spring has already arrived.
The process of forcing is fairly simple and straightforward. Just choose a variety that works well for forcing and a container that is appropriate for the bulb. There are specialized vases that are made just for this purpose but they aren’t strictly necessary.
Most bulbs will require a chilling period in order to get a full bloom. Ask your grower if their bulbs come pre-chilled or if you will need to start the process at home. An unheated garage or cellar works in cooler areas but in warmer climates, bulbs should go in a fridge. Make sure onions and apples are not stored in the same fridge as the ethylene gas they produce may damage the bulbs. Here are a few bulbs that will give you great results.
Daffodils are an excellent choice for forcing. They are typically very eager to bloom and grow well indoors. They require a lot of light to bloom well so choose a spot that will make the most of the winter light.
Try grouping a few bulbs in a pot and cover with just enough soil to reach the tips of the bulbs. Water enough to moisten the soil but be very careful not to overwater. Their vivid yellow blooms of a variety like Dutch Master will bring sunshine back to your home long before the temperature rises.
Tulips are another bulb easily brought into bloom. They will also need a chilling. Find a very sunny window as these bulbs also like a lot of light. They come in a huge variety of colors, some are patterned with fancy stripes like Pink Petticoat and others, like Blue Moon, are painted in bold solids.
Tulips will bend significantly toward the light, both before and even after they are cut. Rotate the container every few days to get a strong and upright plant.
Perhaps the one of the most fragrant flower bulbs, the hyacinth can fill an entire room with scent from a single bulb. They are a classic forcing bulb that has been favored since Victorian times. Both their incredible perfume and the range of available colors have kept them popular. Hyacinths can be found in shades from pure white to bright pink to deep violet. These bulbs can be grown in nothing but water, making them very easy to force.
Start hyacinths in the dark with the base just touching water and keep the water level steady. Keep them a cool, dark spot for 4-6 weeks or until a good root system is established. Then bring them into bright light. The stems are hollow so you may need to stake them if they begin to flop.
When winter becomes dreary, don’t despair. Bring a little of spring’s joy into your home this winter with bulbs.