Welcome to my blog about bulb forcing

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. (please note that all text and images are copyright)

forcing muscari

I realised that might not be a Shorter and Son trough. On examing the base, best I could without turning it over, it doesn't say "Shorter". It does have a number. I'll have to wait until the muscari are finished to examine it properly.

1930s squirrel flower trough

close-up of that squirrel, which I think is so cute

1930s squirrel flower trough

Surprising results with some of the muscari. No buds on the vase-forced bulbs. The bulbs I put in the Shorter and Son trough with the squirrel on a quickly improvised combination of gravel and compost have flowers and more buds coming. I don't know what exactly they like about that. 5 flowers/buds out of 10 (so far!), 50% very impressive, especially compared with zero from the vases.

forced muscari bulbs

close-up of one of the buds coming

forced muscari bud

close-up of another bud coming

forced muscari bud

Stevens and Williams Princess vases on the right (with Fresco), 2 glassroots vases in the middle (lime green has City of Bradford, cranberry Delft Blue), other antique glass hyacinth vases to the left (cobalt blue and green with Delft Blue) with Charles I Britannia ceramic transferware  (with Silverstone) amongst them

forced hyacinths in vases

forced hyacinths in vases and bulb bowls

Close-up of those 3 on the right from above, that Ravenhead Naturals vase on the left supposedly has Skyline (must be Pink Pearl, loose bulbs at the garden centre got mixed up I assume), middle "Venetian" vase is from Sainsbury's unnamed selection pack, Hornsea Cirrus bulb pot on the right has supposedly Purple Star (looks way too pink for that).

forced hyacinths in vases

some outstanding blooms this forcing season

I have some outstanding blooms this forcing season. Silverstone hyacinth in a repurposed Adam biscuit barrel.

forced Silverstone hyacinth in bloom

 forced hyacinths in vases and bulb bowls

close-up of the bulb bowl in the middle above, 2 great blooms out of 4 Caribbean Dream bulbs that were started

forced Caribbean Dream hyacinths in bulb bowl

Caribbean Dream hyacinth in bloom

 

 

 

 

this is one of my best blooms this year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to discard that 3rd bulb as it was rotten, shame 2 of the bulbs rotted as these 2 flowers are so great.

Carribean Dream forced hyacinths

These City of Bradford hyacinths are looking fabulous in this bulb bowl - and all in bloom at the same time. I haven't used this variety before but pleased with this bulb bowl. Will need to check how the others performed.

forced City of Bradford hyacinths in bulb bowl

that bulb bowl from the other side

forced City of Bradford hyacinths in bulb bowl

sure another pic is not required but I can't resist, just so impressed with these all in bloom at the same time, couple days later

forced City of Bradford hyacinths in bulb bowl

some of the outstanding blooms from upstairs

outstanding forced hyacinth blooms

3 Lady Derby hyacinths in the SylvaC pot with frogs and lizard on the left and bulb bowl with Blue Jacket hyacinths on the right, only buds so far.

forced Lady Derby hyacinths

2 days later the Lady Derby hyacinths have opened up more

forced Lady Derby hyacinths

some buds just opening

forced hyacinth buds opening

I think this pic is a little lighter so I include it although it's quite similar to the one above

forced hyacinth buds just opening

The hyacinth in that terracotta pot has bloomed and it has a double stem - great flower. It's either Delft Blue or Skyline - my spreadsheet got a bit confused.

double-stemmed hyacinth

the Miss Saigon hyacinths have also opened, Delft Blue either side

Miss Saigon and Delft Blue forced hyacinths

Difficult to get all the hyacinths in a bowl in bloom at the same time - this one almost made it. Surprising to see some muscari flowers on the left. What did I do right? I've had trouble getting any flowers out of muscari bulbs before their usual blooming time yet that Shorter and Son horseshoe trough with the squirrel with muscari bulbs on an improvised mix of grit and compost has them blooming. There are plenty of vases in the background of pics above with muscari bulbs with lots of roots but no flowers. I've tried them in pots in compost in the past with no results. This requires further experimentation!

bulb bowl with hyacinth bulbs in bloom

sometimes the wilting flowers have a special intensity of colour, Blue Jacket

wilting forced Blue Jacket hyacinth

Some of the last vases out of the dark, some are a bit questionable whether the stems have grown enough but if they don't come out soon, they won't bloom this year. Why so many of the squat vases so late? Is there a difference between tall and squat vases ability to grow hyacinth bulbs? Had never considered that but this is curious. Of these late developers 4 are Fresco, 7 Delft Blue from 3 suppliers (3 from one, 2 from another and 1 each from a third and fourth supplier), 2 Blue Eyes and 1 unnamed. Of the 7 vases left in the dark: 3 Fresco, 1 Blue Eyes, 1 Purple Star, 1 Skyline and 1 unknown.

hyacinth vases out of the dark

The bud in that cobalt blue vase with the white dot decoration is enormous! The variety is Blue Eyes.

hyacinth Blue Eyes bud

2nd week in January

those buds look like magic beans

forced hyacinth buds

some of the hyacinths in bloom

forced hyacinths in bloom in hyacinth vases

some of the hyacinths in bloom downstairs

surprisingly some muscari in bloom! why those 2 (and another has buds)?, none of the ones in the vases have buds

forced muscari

Everything happens very quickly now. Suddenly I have a lot of hyacinths in full bloom. I still have over 20 vases in the cellar whose bulbs are not ready to come out. At this point I'm not sure they ever will be.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vase

I love those fat buds

forced hyacinth buds

I love the purple colour of this hyacinth.

forced hyacinth

The small-ish openings on the x-shape vases are ideal for the smaller supermarket bulbs.

x-shape hyacinth vases with blooms

some other supermarket bulbs in the 2 vases to the right

forced hyacinths in bloom in vases

4 of these 5 Blue Eyes hyacinths are good, 1 of the bulbs was a failure

Blue Eyes forced hyacinths

The bulb bowl on the left has City of Bradford (Peter Nyssen) looking good and just coming into bloom. The bowl on the right has Caribbean Dream, one bulb I have removed as it's rotten (on the right shows the mould underneath), of the remaining bulbs, 1 is blooming, 1 has nice buds, 1 is doing very little. 

bulb bowls with forced hyacinths

Delft Blue in the bowl to the right

forced hyacinths in vases and bulb bowl

these supermarket hyacinth bulbs came in an assortment so can only identify the bulbs as white (bulbs are white as below in the middle) or pink/blue shades (purple bulbs below)

bulb bowl with hyacinths in bloom

Happy New Year

some more blooms on Jan 6th

forced hyacinths

Some of the hyacinths upstairs are looking good (I feared many would be stunted like last year).

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

That blue vase in the front below needs topping up with water - nothing like a flash pic to hightlight something I didn't notice in natural light.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

I've rearranged some of the vases, taking failures and spent blooms away and bringing up more vases that recently came out of the dark. Polly Pocket in her usual spot on the floor by the radiator.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

Already I can see some have not performed and it's time to remove them from valuable windowsill space and make room for others.

purple sensation failed hyacinths

In addition to Purple Sensation failures above, some Silverstone, Delft Blue and Skyline (although think they were mixed up at the garden centre so possibly not Skyline) failures below. Generally Delft Blue are great but the odd ones are not. I don't think Silverstone is going to be a reasonable forcing variety - it wasn't sold as prepared I just wanted to try it. Some unprepared bulbs work well. I should have bought enough to plant some Silverstone in the garden to do a proper comparison. Maybe it does great there. So far, does not do well forcing in a hyacinth vase, although large bulbs make it appealing for the vases with very large openings like the 2 green below.

forced hyacinths poor

Downstairs, Victor in his usual spot and some bulb bowls.

the white hyacinths so far this year

more vases coming out of the dark, some of my vintage tall ones, my favourite type, sadly my camera does not capture that purple/blue cobalt blue colour properly

I only started those Tye uranium ones (sickly green in the middle) the end of November and they've grown quickly, I think they will bloom in the next few weeks

the tiny bulbs in the Shorter and Son trough avoided the mice eating them as they were on top of a box which apparently they couldn't get to, I can't remember if those are crocus or tulips, will check

then 3 days later:

forced hyacinths for Christmas

on my back windowsill downstairs,

This is the same bulb bowl, above and below, with Delft Blue hyacinths. I wanted to show both sides of the flowers. I love those beautiful buds.

forced hyacinth in bulb bowl

right below, Caribbean Dream

left above and below, 4 purple Sainsbury's bulbs around 1 white in the middle

Upstairs at the front, it's such a dark start to January I've had to use the flash to take photos.

forced hyacinths in bloom in hyacinth vases

forced hyacinths in bloom in hyacinth vases

some hyacinths in bloom on the back windowsill upstairs

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

Sainsbury's purple hyacinth

Delft Blue, bit small but nice and the scent is wonderful

Miss Saigon hyacinth not quite blooming properly but still looks beautiful

the Sainsbury's white hyacinths haven't fully opened so far, not sure they will

end of December 2016

I'm worried whether the hyacinths upstairs in the living room are getting enough light. The room faces west and doesn't get any direct sun. A lot of them are pretty short, as they were last year, but I don't know if that's their position in the house or down to natural variations. The only way to know is to compare like for like bulbs. I will have to do it more scientifically next year (this year's questions are: opaque vs translucent vases and prepared vs unprepared bulbs).  Delft Blue hyacinth, below.

Delft Blue forced  hyacinth

this is a Silverstone hyacinth (in vase 65) just coming into bloom

forced hyacinth buds

also Silverstone right below

forced hyacinths upstairs in planter

close-up of that green vase (64) above right

forced hyacinth flower

forced hyacinths in wirework plant stand

close-up of the bottom shelf

forced hyacinths end of December

that green vase on the left above is Delft Blueforced Delft Blue hyacinth in hyacinth vase end of December

Down to the kitchen windowsill which faces east, this hyacinth in bloom I purchased as a "Skyline" from the bin of bulbs at the garden centre, certainly not the purple Skyline flowers I had last year

forced hyacinth in bloom

Delft Blue hyacinth, bit small but ok flower, that white hyacinth to the right, just starting to open is from Sainsbury's - you don't need expensive (or prepared) bulbs for forcing!

forced Delft Blue hyacinth end of December

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays

forced hyacinths Christmas day

couple of boxes of vases I'm sharing on Christmas

forced hyacinths Christmas day

Christmas Eve

a few hyacinths in bloom on Christmas Eve but lots and lots of buds, Victor enjoying his usual spot by the radiator and near the back door keeping an eye out for other cats coming in the cat door

forced hyacinths on windowsill

I'm never sure what hyacinths I will have for Christmas. No matter what weather they got at any stage of their development, no matter when I started them and what conditions, they cannot be guaranteed to bloom for Christmas, much as I try. On Dec 23rd my first hyacinth in the cobalt blue squat vase is Skyline. The pinky one in the green vase behind it is also supposedly Skyline but it obviously is not (unless I don't know enough about this variety and it having colour variations). I chose it from one of those bins of loose bulbs at the garden centre. The blue and white pot is Delft Blue (from deJager). Once again, cats (Jeffrey and Scarecrow) in the background (left in the back garden next door) and I hadn't realized they were there.

force hyacinths in vases on christmas eve

the next day (Dec 24th) the hyacinth in the blue and white pot is a little closer to blooming - intriguingly the buds look pink but I only bought 3 pink Lady Derby hyacinth bulbs and no other pink ones and this isn't one of those

forced hyacinth in blue and white tureen

that hyacinth in the centre in the green vase is Delft Blue (from Peter Nyssen), pink on the right "Skyline" as above and on the left is another Skyline, this one looking the appropriate colour

forced hyacinths on Christmas Eve

mid-December 2016

A few days later (Dec 21st) and more vases and pots out of the dark. I am repurposing tobacco jars and a biscuit barrel. On the shortest day of the year it's nice to look forward to some flowers in a few days/weeks.

pots with forced hyacinth bulbs ready to come out of the dark

hyacinth vases

hyacinth vases

all the hyacinths out of the dark today, in vases, pots and bowls, hyacinths previously out of the dark in the background on the windowsill

hyacinth vases

More hyacinth vases out of the dark and into the light on Dec 16th. Some of the bulbs I'm not too sure if they are ready but if any are to be ready for Christmas I need to err on the side of assuming they are ready. The one in the front row in the green rose bowl is definitely ready. The bulge of the flower is out of the bulb. I wish they were all so definitive. The blue and white bulb bowl in the middle highlights the problem of joining more than 1 bulb together - they develop at different rates!

hyacinth vases with forced hyacinth bulbs

"Waldeck" amethyst hyacinth vase (below), the opening of which surprisingly is too small for this hyacinth bulb. If it was September and I had a range of bulbs, would not be a problem. I could just use a smaller bulb but I just have this 1 bulb left from a very late purchase and it won't fit - and it doesn't look an unusually large bulb. This vase will just have to wait until next year to have a hyacinth forced in it.

Waldeck hyacinth vase

Davidson bulb bowl, looking reasonably good with unprepared bulbs so I have high hopes they will work well. You can see the extensive roots inside.

Davidson hyacinth bulb bowl

beginning of December 2016

The next episode of Modus had another hyacinth vase.

hyacinth vase Modus

A week later and more vases out of the dark (9-12-2016).

forced hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

That green vase, front row left above and below, I'm using for the first time this year having bought it recently on ebay. This view shows great roots on that Delft Blue hyacinth bulb.

hyacinth bulb in hyacinth vase

the next day and I took another lot of vases out of the dark, Victor in his usual spot

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs out of the dark

Here are most of the hyacinths out of the cellar so far (11-12-2016) on the kitchen windowsill. I have more in the living room, see next pics below.

forced hyacinths in vases bowls and pots

I love wirework plant stands but most are too large (and too expensive) for my home but I was lucky enough to find this reasonably small one and have put some of my hyacinth vases on it. There is room on the bottom shelf as well but it's so close to the radiator I'm reluctant to use it but probably will when I've run out of room elsewhere.

hyacinth vases in wirework plant stand

I also found this plant stand which is small enough to also fit in the living room (but isn't nearly as elegant as the one above) on the plus side it has its original lead liner.

plant stand with hyacinth vases

This blue vase is a new one in the Ravenhead Naturals range which I was curious to try. I bought a few very late bulbs at the garden centre a couple weeks ago and had a couple left so started this one today (11-12-2016), ie filled with water and put in the dark in the cellar, even though it's very late in the season - maybe too late - I'm not sure, I'll see how and when it blooms.

blue Ravenhead Naturals hyacinth vase

More vases out of the dark yesterday (2-12-2016) after 11 to 12 weeks in the dark. That's Victor's spot, nice and warm by the radiator - not the best place for hyacinths but that's where my windowsill is.

hyacinth bulbs forced in hyacinth vases

Amber is not my favourite colour for hyacinth vases but this one is exquisite - handblown, high kick-up, snapped off pontil mark.

tall amber hyacinth vase

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