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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Bulb Bowls

Bulb bowls have their pros and cons. The first bulb bowl I took out of the dark end of November looked pretty good with all the bulbs at a similar stage of development (see below). These bulb bowls have hyacinths that vary quite a lot. Some of the hyacinths really need to come out of the dark, some could do with longer in the dark. Difficult if they're in the same bulb bowl. A lot of the roots were growing outwards rather that through the hole into the water. I tried to push some back in but they just broke so only did that with one bowl.

hyacinth bulb bowl

That one bulb in the green Davidson bulb bowl that is not growing is soft and rotten so I disposed of that and examined the other two bulbs from that bowl and see that the roots are rotting, soft and transparent. Usually hyacinth roots are white and brittle. I removed the soft rotting roots and there are still some white brittle roots left so thought they'd be worth planting in compost.

forced hyacinth with rotting roots

checking the bulbs that aren't very well developed in the other bowls reveals they don't have roots

hyacinth bulb bowls

this pot had 3 bulbs but one not growing so removed it - it's soft and oozing

I decided to just leave the roots however they were after the failed attempt to push them into the water. Below they are growing into one of the small ventilation holes, sure the hyacinth will bloom just fine with the roots as they are.

hyacinth bulb bowl

I have never seen hyacinth roots like this with brown on the tips of the roots. Intriguing as I've been forcing hyacinths for years and thought I'd seen it all.

hyacinth roots with brown tips

more bulbs out of the dark early December 2019

The crocus are still looking a bit pale but guess it's the inner leaves that are green,

crocus bowl Wedgwood hedgehog with crocus bulbs

some small tulips in the Shorter and Sons trough, lots of roots growing from the crocus bulbs in the vases

forcing crocus in vases

some more pale yellowish hyacinths out of the dark, easy to see the difference with the green ones that have been out for a week

forcing hyacinths in hyacinth vases

hyacinths in hyacinth vases

I will be at the Castlehaven WinterFest on December 13th selling some of the hyacinths to benefit Mama Cat Trust Fox Rescue

Hyacinth Bulbs - end of November 2019

Things are happening quickly now with all the crocus vases and 30 hyacinth vases out of the cellar. The hyacinths need to be out of the dark by December 1st to bloom for Christmas so I have many well on the way.

hyacinth vases

forcing hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth bulb bowl

hexagonal Victorian cobalt blue hyacinth vase

amethyst hand-blown hyacinth vase

Hornsea pot

Wedgwood hedgehog with crocus bulbs

Growing Amaryllis in Vases

the amaryllis have stages they go through

1. bulbs into vases with the initial dry roots

amaryllis vases

2. those existing roots rot and turn the water black, the bulbs have new green shoots

amaryllis bulbs in vases

3. I rinse out the vases, remove the rotting roots, add fresh water

amaryllis bulbs in vases

first crocus roots

I only started these 10 days ago and already I can see roots! Note they are sitting in water. Crocus bulbs seem to need that whereas hyacinth bulbs do not.

forced crocus bulbs with roots

I also found these 2 vases I'd forgotten about and put some crocus bulbs in them. They aren't "official" crocus vases, unlike those above, but seem a suitable size and shape to hold the bulb above (and half-in) the water. Typical Italian (Venetian?) painted vases of the 50s/60s ? Think they both have labels that say "Italy" on the bottom. I have a stand for the size of the one on the right which came with the 3 amethyst vases a few photos below. I've bought the odd one singly. Not sure how they'll look in a stand with a crocus but will try them and see. I do prefer the blue to the amethyst colour.

crocus bulbs in vases

Crocus and Muscari Forcing

The hyacinths are finally all started and in the cellar in the dark so it's time to press on with the smaller bulbs, crocus and muscari. I'll get to the tulips last. The first step is to get all the crocus vases out.

forcing crocus bulbs

I find the large Dutch crocus bulbs are the best for forcing, although the small species crocus are sold at Sainsbury's so often fall back on them in case I run out. I started out with the large bulbs from Peter Nyssen. The crocus vases need to be filled with water touching the bulbs, unlike hyacinths which mustn't sit in water.

forcing crocus bulbs

I forgot about my Wedgwood hedgehog! I thought I'd take some bulbs out of those clear vases which, let's face it, are rather boring.

forcing crocus bulbs

I also found a few leftover large crocus bulbs so I managed to plant up the hedgehog with all large bulbs except for a couple smaller ones. I only bought this earlier this year (on ebay) so haven't used it before. It was rather difficult to plant up, keeping the crocus bulbs sticking out the holes and filling it with compost. Now the challenge to keep it well watered.

wedgwood hedgehog planted with crocus

I need to put the muscari bulbs in pots in compost or on top of pebbles or shells, etc. They will NOT grow in a vase with water alone like the crocus bulbs.

muscari bulb forcing

end of September 2019 - continuing starting hyacinth bulb forcing

The bulbs I started a couple weeks ago are rooting well (and one bulb was mouldy and had to be discarded).

forcing hyacinth bulbs in vases bulbs with roots

The bulb deliveries did not go as planned (will explain later this week) so I had to resort to the garden centre - so disappointed. At least there were some bulbs left, if not the largest and best. (I had ordered bulbs to avoid this!)

forcing hyacinth bulbs for Christmas

some tall 19th century hyacinth vases and 2 modern Broste Copenhagen hyacinth vases, was going to try the smalll hyacinth bulbs on the crocus bowl but they are still too large, will just use crocus bulbs for that

forcing hyacinth bulbs for Christmas

I love cobalt blue glass, whatever vintage

cobalt blue antique hyacinth vases

vases and bowl with the largest openings needing the largest bulbs

start of the forcing season September 2019

September is the start of the forcing season, especially if you want hyacinths in bloom on Christmas day. The prepared bulbs are available for sale. I ordered mine in August (and received them 11-9-2019) but I believe some bulb companies have them in May (Chelsea time) in their catalogues, but still to be delivered in September.

Firstly, I printed off my spreadsheet of vases where I note which hyacinth variety I put in each vase and got some spare labels for any vases not labelled. I do like to think of which hyacinth might look best in each vase but it can get a bit haphazard but I do know I used Woodstock in that small uranium vase with the prongs.

forcing hyacinth bulbs for Christmas

fill the vases with water to just below the hyacinth bulb then put the vases in the dark, check them regularly after about 8 weeks

forcing hyacinth bulbs

I usually have lots of cats appearing when I start organising my hyacinths but only this sweet boy with the massive paws (he's polydactyl) came and started playing with the bulbs

forcing hyacinths

I bring out about 6 vases at a time (from boxes in the cellar). I remembered Sainsbury's have a new hyacinth vase for sale so of course, I had to try one.

forcing hyacinths for Christmas

I disagree with the instructions that say have the water touching the bulb; I think the bulbs would rot.

sainsburys hyacinth vase

I only have 1 of my bulb orders so I don't have the largest bulbs I ordered so cannot start some of the vases with larger openings (3 on the right).

forcing hyacinths for Christmas

the Woodstock hyacinth bulbs are a bit smaller so suitable for some of the smaller vases and some vases that are suitable for different size bulbs

forcing hyacinths for Christmas

continuing the next day (this is going to be days of work), my one female cat, Polly Pocket came out, guess she's more comfortable if the boys aren't there

forcing hyacinths for Christmas

I do love the tall cobalt blue vases, probably they're my favourite, but I also like the short also Victorian vases in jewel colours, the Victorian terracotta vases and the odd modern ones. The clear engraved ones are from Cox and Cox and have labels on their bases. I only got them recently on ebay so didn't know for sure about them. Someone had told me the engraving was just a clear sticker applied to them but these are actually engraved, slightly different sizes. My one "Mary Gregory" hyacinth vase above, very tasteful IMHO, compared to some Mary Gregory designs.

forcing hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases for Christmas

I had to get the torch to look for all the "x-shape" vases (don't know a better term for them) as I thought they'd be nice with the same variety.

forcing hyacinth vases for Christmas

Scarecrow showing his massive polydactyl paws. I've put the catnip on the table for him.

hyacinth bulb bowl

I think I might have too many bulb bowls. I think some of these will be on ebay soon. The 4 on the left at the back are all the same, as are those two large ones back right. I didn't count these properly as hyacinth bulb requirements so I need to buy more bulbs.

hyacinth bulb bowls

Last Hyacinths - February 2019

hyacinth

Apricot Passion hyacinth

Apricot Passion hyacinth

hyacinth in hyacinth vase

Miss Saigon hyacinths bulb bowl

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

Crocus in bloom

Crocus in bloom mid-January 2019

forced crocus in bloom in crocus vase

forced crocus in crocus vase

forced crocus

forced crocus in crocus bowl

forced crocus in vases

forced crocus

forced crocus in bloom

hyacinths end of January 2019

hyacinths in bloom in hyacinth vases and bowl

hyacinths in bloom in vases and bulb bowl

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