Indoor Gardening: Forcing Bulbs

Does anyone else remember seeing Polaroid snaps of a potted amaryllis bulb in their grandmothers photo albums?  The picture of that glorious annual event of the opening of the amaryllis!  Why not carry on the indoor gardening tradition of forcing bulbs!

Flowering bulbs seem to be everywhere in fall and early winter.  Every grocery store and green house has a display this time of year.  Of course, we could never live up to the Victorians passion for forcing bulbs or any of the gardening that they did, for that matter.  Still, plant lovers everywhere bring these dormant orbs into their homes every year just to see their vibrant flowers.  The dramatic, the colorful and the scented!

Does anyone have a photo like this?

Special Care

A few of the bulbs that can be forced need to be put through a short winter cycle before being potted up.  This requires extra time and an extra step.  One neat thing about this is that you can schedule bloom time by planting so many weeks ahead.  Need potted flowers blooming for a special occasion?  With some advanced planning, you could have quite a display.

Tulip bulb.

Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus need this kind of conditioning.  A cool place such as a refrigerator or a garage that is above freezing would be ideal.  Then, when the prescribed ‘winter’ is up, plant your bulbs in any pots that you like.  This way you could have some blooms coming and going through the winter.  A whole bulb garden could be assembled with a variety of species coming all at once.  The article How To Force Bulbs has some elegant suggestions and a wealth of advice.

Easy Options

I’ve chosen to grow just a few types for my table this year and yes, these require very little input!  Some bulbs do not need any special attention before planting.  They can be purchased and planted with very little care.  Amaryllis bulbs come in endless shades of red, pink and white.  They are quick to grow and make a huge impact.  You can usually pick up a kit for around $5.  Paper whites, a member of the narcissus family, can be grown in an decorative bowl filled with stones.  Hyacinths can be grown in pots, vases or even a special hyacinth vase that comes with some kits.  Upon opening the package, add water just up to the roots of the bulb.  Place in a cool (around 50 degrees F) location for 10 weeks.  Check on the water level occasionally.  Hyacinths are very heavily scented and may not be for everyone but they are fantastic bloomers!

Paper White bulbs.

To get started, assemble some unoccupied plant pots.  You will need some clean rocks and potting soil.  Choose a few pots that will accommodate the bulbs sizes.

Assemble some pots…

The bulbs do not like to be buried.  Amaryllis like to be about 2/3 to half way out.  The paper whites can be simply nestled into the stones.

Adding some moss to the amaryllis bulb.

A little stroll in the woods and you can pick up all of the embellishments that you need to dress up your bulbs.  Moss, twigs, dried flowers, pine cones, whatever you can find!

Paper Whites like a rocky place to grow!

Now, I have heard of adding alcohol to your bulbs to stunt the growth and give stronger stems.  I haven’t tried this yet but it sounds intriguing!  Go to http://blogs.cornell.edu/hort/2009/11/10/pickling-your-paperwhites/ for more information.  Water bulbs regularly and stake them as needed.  If you feel like fertilizing, go ahead.  If not, they will probably be fine.  In summer, an amaryllis bulb can be relocated to a vacant spot in your perennial garden, then potted up again before frost.  Paper whites and other bulbs can be moved to the garden for future blooming but they may take a few years to really be impressive again.  Hyacinth will probably not amount to anything if replanted because flowering takes so much life out of it.

A Simple Table Scape

Ever need to dress up your dining room table for a special occasion?  Maybe you just want to bring a bit of the outdoors inside this winter.  Making a nature inspired table scape featuring your freshly potted bulbs is a exceptional way to do just that!

Paper whites all potted up.

I picked out this simple table runner made of cotton.  After placing the pots on the table, I decided to use the hydrangeas that I dried earlier in the fall.

Found  items look so natural!

Moss and lichen from the forest floor covers up the dirt around the amaryllis bulb.  Graceful beech branches and fern seed pods add just enough interest.  We scavenged acorns and pine cones too!

Hyacinth bulb.

Notice the delicate mauve-pink of the papery covering of the hyacinth bulb.  It’s so good for your brain to see green, living things this time of year.

By adding dried flowers and candles, you have a gorgeous table scape!

It really is a blank canvas!  Add any colors or plants that you like.  Have a theme.  Candles are a nice addition, just make sure to keep them away from dry plant matter when lit.

Nature inspired table scape!

As your bulbs grow, your table scape will really take shape!  Your table is your canvas, just get out and see what you can find for complementary natural items.  If you are the crafty type, you will have no trouble coming up with something outstanding.  I hope that you can make the most of your forced bulbs, whether purchased or received as a hostess gift.  If you have more than two pots, why not create a multi-seasonal table scape?  Your dining room will look stately and stunning!

Things are getting pretty cold around here but I find that indoor growing, such as forcing bulbs, can be good winter therapy.  What do you like to grow indoors this time of year?  Drop me a line below in comments, I would love to hear from you!  Thank you for your interest in Everlongardener this week!

Hilary|Everlongardener