Welcome to my blog about bulb forcing

bulb bowls hyacinth cat

The bulb forcing year starts in August/September buying bulbs. Then the bulbs quietly grow roots in the dark until the beginning of December when they are brought into the light and warmth and can begin blooming from Christmas day onwards when it is magic to have flowers and scent indoors in the middle of winter.

I force about 200 hyacinth bulbs each year. I try different hyacinth varieties from different bulb companies and compare how they perform. I'm always trying to formulate the best ways to force hyacinths and this is the documentation of my results. I also have a site devoted to hyacinth vases (www.hyacinthvases.org.uk).                       (please note that all text and images are copyright)

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November 2018 Hyacinths Out of the Dark

I've been taking lots of hyacinths out of the cellar the in the last 10 days, starting on November 19th. The time is different every year, going by how they look. The bulge of the flower must be out of the bulb.

hyacinth growing in hyacinth vase

hyacinth vases

hyacinth vase, pot and bulb bowl

hyacinths in pots

hyacinth vases

Scarecrow and hyacinth vases

hyacinth vases

hyacinth vases

checking on the bulbs end of October

I checked on the bulbs yesterday and watered the pots. The vases generally don't need topping up as the bulb is like a plug limiting evaporation but the pots need watering - which is my least favourite task. I found myself wondering why did I have to plant so many bulbs!

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs with developing roots

hyacinth bulbs growing in Golden Syrup tins

crocus vases with large Dutch crocus bulbs, which I usually use for forcing, with curly roots developing, the odd vase has no roots like the 2nd from left below, these are just a selection

crocus vases with large Dutch crocus bulbs with curly roots developing

these crocus vases have straight roots developing from crocus chrysanthus bulbs which I guess I decided to try (I was starting so many I can't even remember now but I do know these were sold at Sainsbury's so easier to get than the large Dutch crocus which required a trip to the garden centre or order from Peter Nyssen)

crocus vases with crocus chrysanthus bulbs with straight roots developing

Shorter and other troughs with the crocus chrysanthus bulbs

Shorter troughs with crocus chrysanthus

I dont' know why that one bulb has such a long stem shooting up

Shorter troughs with small bulbs growing

I don't know why these have leggy stems - or what to do about them. Does one bring them out as they are so developed or leave them to struggle in the dark??

pots with small bulbs growing

final bulb forcing

Scarecrow came to help me organise the final bulb forcing for the season.

I couldn't resist these vintage 1960s plastic hyacinth vases on ebay so a trip to the garden centre for a few more hyacinth bulbs.

keil plastic hyacinth vases

keil plastic hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs and teal vintage glass hyacinth vases

while at the garden centre I also bought some muscari and iris reticulata bulbs  and I still had a pack of crocus bulbs

bulb packages

those really small bulbs are needed for the Shorter and Son troughs, iris reticulata in both geese troughs and muscari in the rabbit trough

shorter and sons geese and rabbit flower troughs

shorter and sons geese flower trough with iris reticula bulbs

flower trough with bulbs

I guess those are shot glasses but they were on ebay with a hyacinth vase with the same design

glasses and pot with small bulbs

muscari in the blue bird troughs, those 2 golden syrup tins on the right are rusted through so can't be used but I planted up the 3 on the left, previously the larger golden syrup tins were planted with hyacinth bulbs, these are smaller and need muscari or crocus

small bulb forcing

for some of the muscari bulbs, they are going in pots to stay in the garden, no more room in the cellar and some years the muscari doesn't bloom indoors any earlier than outdoors

pots with muscari

crocus forcing

unlike the hyacinth bulbs that must not be in contact with water, the crocus bulbs need to be in the water to spur them into growth

crocus vases with bulbs for forcing

I have a few vases left that need bulbs so I bought another pack from Sainsburys - just for convenience

crocus forcing

I did the remaining vases and a few other containers, including that "joined ball" posy (not sure what else to call it.

forcing crocus bulbs

on closer examination the middle balls are squashed in and taller so the crocus bulbs would not be in contact with the water if I just put them on like that

joined ball posy water level

instead I put bulbs on the lower balls and pushed them in a bit like a plug, added more water and put on the remaining bulbs

joined ball posy

Then I had a few bulbs to use in some of the Shorter and Son troughs. I'll have to get a few more bulbs, maybe muscari from the garden centre. (Sainsburys doesn't have any muscari bulbs). And I found a hyacinth bulb I missed on the ground under the table. 

Shorter and Sons flower troughs with crocus bulbs

so I put that last hyacinth in a jam jar over pebbles and water, not having any hyacinth vases left

hyacinth bulb in jam jar for forcing

Peter Nyssen have gone over to compostable bags for their bulbs - great news

Peter Nyssen compostable bags

Bloms are still using some sort of mesh plastic? not only is it plastic but sure animals could get caught if left in the garden, especially the larger mesh of the orange bag

Bloms bulbs bags

Start of the Hyacinth Bulb Forcing Season Sept 2018

The first step of hyacinth bulb forcing is getting some hyacinth bulbs. This week I received my order from Peter Nyssen and bought some bulbs from B+Q and Sainsburys. I have a print-out of my spreadsheet where I can note which bulb I put in each vase (each vase is numbered). As soon as I started, the cats started appearing, first Bear.

hyacinth forcing

then Scarecrow

hyacinth bulb forcing

then Jeffrey, predictably a cat has gotten in the empty box the bulbs came in

then Victor

hyacinth bulb forcing

After the bulbs, one needs some vases to put them in. I like a range of vases of all styles. On the right (and the terracotta ones on the left) are some of my Victorian vases.

hyacinth vases for forcing

Some of the modern vases, including things I'm just going to use that aren't "official" hyacinth vases such as that jug.

hyacinth vases for forcing

put a hyacinth bulb in the vase and fill it with water to just below the bulb, then put somewhere dark, a shed, cellar, even a closet

hyacinth vases water level

I bought prepared hyacinth bulbs from Peter Nyssen and Bloms Bulbs but I also bought

plastic hyacinth bulbs for forcing

some smaller bulbs from Sainsburys and B+Q

Sainsburys and B+Q hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth bulb forcing in vases

hyacinth vases for forcing

Socks doesn't come outside very much but eventually even he had to come and investigate the hyacinth bulb forcing

hyacinth vases for forcing

the tall cups are useful for hiding bulb imperfections, if the bulbs are split they are on display with the smaller cups, bulb pots and bowls

split hyacinth bulbs

that salvia stem broke off so I had to pop it in a vase quickly, the hyacinth vases were handy; the smaller bulbs are good for the bulb bowl with 5 bulb holes, some of the larger bulbs don't fit together

hyacinth vases for forcing

after touching hyacinth bulbs for 2 days, I've gotten seriously itchy - be careful, they can be irritating

hyacinth vases and bulb bowls

I wish I'd saved some of the smaller bulbs for the bulb bowls. Fitting 5 close together is difficult. That larger bowl isn't a problem but the smaller ones are challenging.

hyacinth bulb bowls

I got my delivery from Bloms Bulbs today (Tuesday the 18th) so I've been busy getting more vases ready. I'm on the last few vases and realise I've been going so quickly I haven't taken time to enjoy them and these are so beautiful so taking a moment to look at them.

hyacinth vases and bulbs

these amethyst vases have such a beautiful jewel-like colour, the classic forcing hyacinth, Delft Blue, seems appropriate to use

hyacinth vases

Couple days later, I'm onto my crocus vases now although still waiting for another bulb (large Dutch crocus, Crocus vernus) delivery for those. I did buy a box of crocus bulbs from Sainsburys, Crocus chrysanthus, winter-flowering as described by bulb companies but they aren't really large enough for the vases but some might be. As usual - I'll try it and compare the two types. I've forced both in the past but not in a scientific-enough way.

crocus vases glass ball joined posy

I have an old amaryllis bulb I'm using for that amaryllis vase and need another for that amethyst vase.

hyacinth vases

Final hyacinths in the Golden Syrup tins.

hyacinth bulb golden syrup tin

end of the 2017 forcing season

Previously Forced Hyacinths in the Garden - March 2018

After forcing the hyacinth bulbs I plant them in the garden. These previous years' hyacinths in the garden are blooming but are much smaller. The garden withindoors meets the garden withoutdoors.

forced hyacinths planted in garden

forced hyacinths planted in the garden

forced hyacinths planted in the garden

I now have a huge pile of spent hyacinth bulbs to plant in the garden. I think it's warm enough now - for the moment - before the latest cold snap due before Easter.

spent hyacinth bulbs

All my content is copyrighted

This is my main bulb forcing windowsill. Many of my photos are quite identifiable because of the backgrounds (also my windowsill upstairs, mantel and front window shown in photos below). I am upset that some people have stolen my photos and presented them as their own.  I am now watermarking my photos but there are still some photos of mine online that are not watermarked yet.  All my content, including photos and text is copyrighted, both at this site and my site www.hyacinthvases.org.uk (and www.gardenwithoutdoors.org.uk).

bulb forcing

this is the window above that one, upstairs, same buildings in the background

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases windowsill upstairs

the mantel in my living room

hyacinths in hyacinth vases

I have a few plant stands and small tables I put some hyacinth vases on in front of the front window.

hyacinths in hyacinth vases

and I tend to organise my bulbs and bulb vases on the table on my patio (usually at least one cat is there)

bulb forcing

Please do not use my photos without permission.

Amaryllis - February 2018

My amaryllis grew a third flowering stem and is blooming this week. It has 3 flowers - amazing. I cut the other two stems off when the flowers wilted so that all the energy could go into those new flowers. That's probably my very last hyacinth for this year in the amber vase, if it actually opens. It's been very late and slow. The others on the windowsill have no roots and aren't growing.

amaryllis in amaryllis vase

those flowers are enormous

amaryllis in amaryllis vase

Victor's not too bothered

amaryllis in amaryllis vase

those last two hyacinths each only have 1 root but that seems to be enough

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

a week later and that Delft Blue hyacinth has bloomed, last hyacinth of the year, growing in a repurposed pickle jar

forced hyacinth in pickle jar

the amaryllis sparkles in the sun

amaryllis in amaryllis vase

there are a certain number of failures, these bulbs never grew roots - no idea why

failed hyacinth bulbs

I can see some flowers that couldn't emerge.

failed hyacinth bulbs

3 of those failed bulbs were from this bulb bowl, hyacinths can be so annoying when this happens - 1 blooms beautifully and the others do nothing. It wouldn't be so bad if they were in individual vases but together in the bulb bowl, frustating.

forced hyacinths in bulb bowl

I've had a new problem this year. I've had a few hyacinths fall over - common enough - but a few have had their roots torn off in the fall and the stem has gone limp. I haven't had that before. The Delft Blue hyacinth in the green Tye vase was looking beautiful Feb. 10th.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

The next day the stem went limp and wouldn't stand up. It had fallen over but I had just stood it upright again - didn't realize there was a problem.

damaged forced hyacinth in hyacinth vase

on closer examination I see the roots were torn off, it had had quite a lot of roots

hyacinth with torn off roots

I've had plenty of hyacinths fall over in the past - they can get rather top heavy but I've always just stood them up again. I've had 2 or 3 this year that have lost their roots in the fall. I don't know why suddenly this has happened.

last hyacinths of the season

the final wave of my largest and best hyacinths (ignoring those in the Dartington vases at the back and the 3 in the bulb bowl that haven't grown), February 2nd, I should have topped up the water in the vases on the left!

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

Of the other vases that were languishing in the cellar until recently, I had 9 vases left in the dark until January 25th when I took out 4 and then I took the final 5 out on January 29th when I thought - it's time. None of them have the stem with a bulge indicating the flower is out of the bulb but either they'll grow and bloom or that's it for them this year.

I forgot to take a pic of those 4, or even note the date, but while processing a pic of my cat Victor (looking so sweet asleep on the table) I saw they were in the background so that was lucky.

cat with hyacinth vases

then those last 5, I remembered to take a pic on their way from my cellar (only accessible from outside) into the house

last hyacinth vases out of the dark of the season

A week later for those in the previous pic or a few days after those above and some have grown remarkably well and look well on the way to blooming this season but some look well and truly stuck and I don't imagine they'll be doing anything further. The black pot on the left I now realise is not one of the final 9 but it has no roots at all and I don't think it will grow further without any.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

then just 3 days later, they are catching up fast, a bloom and fat buds

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

and a couple days later, they are looking great: (left to right, not including those in the background without buds) Delft Blue (buds), Caribbean Dream (darker purple), Sainsburys (front, buds), Delft Blue, Ann Mary, Anne Marie (buds)

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

a few days later and they've really blossomed

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

this is one of my few complete failures; thinking about it, I haven't had many failures this year

failed hyacinth bulb

Sadly this GP Tye vase got cracked and I only discovered it at the beginning of the forcing season when I put a bulb in it and filled it with water which leaked out.

Tye vase with crack

This is the crack in the vase. Not sure how it happened. The squat vases generally seem pretty tough and sturdy. (It's been sitting outside - unuseable but too good to throw away, gosh I sound like someone on Hoarders).

Tye vase with crack

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