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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

end of November 2016

While watching Modus (latest Nordic Noir) on BBC4 (26-11-2016) I spied these hyacinths in bloom in the office. It's supposed to be Christmas Day - just the time the hyacinths should be in bloom!

modus hyacinths

First hyacinths this forcing season ready to come out of the cellar, the bulge of the flower is out of the bulb. These are "prepared" hyacinth bulbs. I used a lot of unprepared bulbs (in addition to prepared ones) which are still in the cellar. Some are not looking very good. I will need to see how they develop. 

I checked some of the other hyacinth vases in the cellar and these are some that are not ready to come out - great root development but stems have not grown enough so these are going back into the dark in the cellar.

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs

I have, of course, bought some more hyacinth vases. It's quite late to start the bulbs but the garden centre still had some prepared bulbs so thought I'd try them and just see how they do. I don't think I've ever started any so late. I remember past years the bulbs were sold out by October so couldn't start any so late, even if I wanted to. 

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs

While checking the bulbs in the cellar I noticed the mice had gotten to the small tulips. They left the hyacinth bulbs alone but they love those Red Hunter species tulips and devoured them all! Traps will be set! - I hate rodents indoors, including my cellar. Luckily I haven't had any rats or mice for years. With 3 cats they steer clear although neighbours either side have them and the cats listen to the mice intently under the floorboards.

beginning of November 2016

that (unofficial) vase with my last hyacinth bulb from end of October below now has strong roots, after only 10 days, just shows any vase/bottle/etc that holds the bulb above water can be used to force a hyacinth

hyacinth bulb in glass vase

I find watering the pots in the cellar difficult and put it off, procrastinate, whatever you want to call it. I'm organised with some things but not with others. Putting a pot on this tray and watering it there to catch the overflow is useful. I need the torch to see the pots I have stored in boxes.

watering bulbs in cellar

That hyacinth on the left is well on the way to be ready to come out of the cellar. The pot in the middle has the roots coming vertically out of the pot - I don't know why! It happens to some hyacinth bulbs but not others.

bulbs in pots in the cellar

end of October 2016

I brought up from the cellar the muscari in vases that are so tall and have well-developed roots. I had 1 hyacinth bulb leftover from a pack of 3 I bought the other day for 2 new hyacinth vases but had no hyacinth vase in which to put it so just used a vase that was around which will at least hold the bulb above the water. (I didn't position the vases that well as it looks like the muscari is sprouting out of the hyacinth bulb but can't easily take another pic as the hyacinth bulb in the vase is now in the cellar.)

muscari bulbs in vases

Last year the muscari bloomed earlier outside than in so leaving this pot outside. Last year I brought the pots of muscari indoors when they bloomed. I'll do that with this one - interesting to see which will bloom earlier this year, the pots outside of the vases inside.

muscari in pot

last hyacinth bulb in latest hyacinth vase purchased

My fears about attempting to force muscari in vases have been realized. They have ample roots and extensive growth and it's only October! What to do with them? It's early to bring them out of the cellar but how long can leaves survive in the dark? The box says bring them out when 4 cm tall. This is about 10 cm tall. My instinct is to bring plants with such extensive "green" (would be green if there was sunlight) growth into the light.

muscari forced on water in vase

not every bulb has such extensive growth, I guess I could bring some out into the light and leave some in the dark

muscari forced on water in vases

the muscari in pots are also growing quite tall, there are roots there coming out above the compost for some reason

muscari forced in a pot

I tried to finish up the rest of the small tulips, Little Princess tulip bulbs planted in blue and white pot (borage in pot to the right)

blue and white pot planted with Red Hunter tulips

Little Princess tulips in this terracotta pot

small tobacco jar planted with small tulips

small tobacco jar with lid

Red Hunter tulips planted in this golden syrup tin

golden syrup tin planted with tulips

I put Little Princess tulip bulbs in 2 or 3 of these pots in a rack

rack of pots planted with bulbs

this was a few weeks ago when my bulb orders were in those boxes, the cats came outside with me, I didn't even notice Billy (black and white cat next door) until I processed the pic on my computer

cats in garden starting indoor bulbs

Mid-October, I put my last hyacinth bulb in the latest hyacinth vase I purchased on ebay (as if I didn't have enough already). My husband thinks the cellar is too full of bulbs - it was his mum who inspired my interest! I'd never seen a hyacinth vase in the US until I came to the UK and saw hers. I'm afraid I still can't resist an impulse buy on ebay if it's a really great vase.

green Victorian dropped bulbous hyacinth vase

One of my least favourite tasks of bulb forcing must be done today - watering any pots in the cellar. I think the vases do pretty well left alone, the bulb acts like a plug and prevents the water evaporating but the pots with compost dry out and the bulb bowls allow water evaporation so they need watering/topping up.

final hyacinth bulbs, small species tulip bulbs and muscari bulbs

Beginning of October and I'm down to the final 4 hyacinth bulbs. The Bloms Blue Eyes bulb in the front looks terrible but I'll plant it and see what happens. I bought this hyacinth vase recently.

hyacinth vase and hyacinth bulbs

species tulips are quite small bulbs so will fit in the Shorter and Son flower troughs, using Little Beaty, Little Princess and Red Hunter tulips

small bulbs Shorter flower troughs

I planted the cat and mouse pot with a hyacinth bulb and also the blue and white biscuit barrel in the pic above.

Shorter flower troughs with small bulbs

Marks and Spencer has thrown down the gauntlet! They are selling some crocus vases with muscari bulbs labelled as one of the few bulbs suitable to grow on water. I have not seen muscari grown in vases. In fact, I have attempted to force them in compost and my conclusion was muscari will not bloom one day earlier indoors than out and in my experience earlier outdoors than indoors. I now have to try muscari in vases for myself. I am using my crocus vases which seem to be an appropriate size.

muscari bulbs and crocus vases

the bulblets need to be removed from the bulbs before they will fit properly in the vases

muscari bulbs and crocus vases

I assume muscari are like crocus and tulip bulbs, in that they need to be sitting with their base in water.

muscari bulbs and crocus vases

a week after I started the muscari above, I decided I had to buy the M+S set to try it out

M+S muscari bulb forcing set

the back of the box

M+S muscari bulb forcing set back of box

these M+S "muscari" vases are recognisable as crocus vases sold on ebay, vases filled with water, bulbs on top and into the cellar (10-10-2016)

M+S muscari vases

these vases (or the mold/mould used to make them) are so old they say "Product of EEC" on the base (the EEC became the EU in 1993, 26 years ago)

M+S muscari vase base

starting other bulbs

Now that the hyacinths are (almost) all started I can think about other bulbs. I have put Little Beauty tulips in this Motto Ware bowl with crushed shells which seem appropriate to go with Hayling Island.

Hayling Island Motto Ware with Little Beauty tulips

some of the last hyacinth bulbs into ceramic containers

hyacinth bulbs in ceramic containers

starting more bulbs

I have now received my deJager and Bloms bulb orders and I have one conclusion - I bought too many hyacinth bulbs! I guess I usually do and then I panic where I'm going to "plant" them. I'm sure a few more pots with bulb fibre will be required before the first step (bulbs on water or compost into the dark for 12 weeks) of this bulb forcing is completed. NB it's generally recommended to use "prepared" hyacinth bulbs for forcing but I am using unprepared bulbs as well as prepared, some varieties for the first time but I will report back here my results.

my latest bulb forcing ebay purchase, a Davidson bulb bowl (thanks to reader Diana who brought this to my attention)

Davidson green frosted bulb bowl

I put Carribean Dream bulbs in this bulb bowl. The holes are reasonably large but I've had lots of large hyacinth bulbs this year to choose from so not a problem.

Davidson bulb bowl with Carribean Dream hyacinth bulbs

I also bought this unusual item on ebay, foreground, Broste vases in the background (with Fresco hyacinth bulbs). Not sure it's a bulb vase but I'm giving it a try with a large Silverstone hyacinth bulb.

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs

deJager Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs in these vases

hyacinth vases with Bloms Delft Blue hyacinths

nice and large Bloms Fresco hyacinth bulbs (unprepared)

Bloms Fresco hyacinth bulbs

some hyacinth vases with those Fresco hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth vases with Bloms Fresco hyacinth bulbs

Bloms Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

Bloms Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth vases with Bloms Delft Blue (following 2 pics)

hyacinth vases with Bloms Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth vases Bloms Blue Eyes hyacinth bulbs

vases with Bloms Purple Sensation, bulb bowl I am trying out with Blue Jacket but all 5 don't fit so will leave it at 4 bulbs and the hole in the middle empty

hyacinth bulb forcing September

the Bloms Silverstone hyacinth bulbs are huge, they are not "prepared" but I am going to try forcing them in vases anyway

Bloms Silverstone hyacinth bulbs

I'm not using this red amaryllis vase this year with an amaryllis but these Silverstone bulbs are so large thought I'd try one of those and also for these Prattware vases which require very large bulbs and using for the following vases as well

hyacinth vases with Bloms Silverstone hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth vases with Bloms Silverstone hyacinth bulbs

Bloms hyacinth bulbs Blue Eyes and Blue Jacket

Bloms Carribean Dream hyacinth bulbs

Bloms Carribean Dream hyacinth bulbs

nice large deJager Lady Derby hyacinth bulbs in my smaller SylvaC pot with the frogs

sylvac pot with frogs Lady Derby hyacinth bulbs

Delft blue and white pots and Yuan design improvised pot with deJager Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

Delft pots with deJager Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

Monday, my Peter Nyssen order came: prepared Delft Blue, prepared Miss Saigon and trying for the first time (unprepared) Purple Star, City of Bradford and Blue Eyes

These vases all have Delft Blue.

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs

top shelf Delft Blue, table in foreground City of Bradford

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

City of Bradford

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs

a few more bulbs started, Hornsea bulb pots, a small "unofficial" hyacinth vase

Hornsea bulb pots with hyacinth bulbs

classical style tobacco jars I am repurposing as bulb pots, they're beautiful quality and no one needs a tobacco jar anymore (or not many anyway)

terracotta tobacco jars with hyacinth bulbs

Yesterday, I wanted to finish starting the bulbs I had before my mail ordered bulbs arrived this week.

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

I still have 10 prepared Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs from the garden centre

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

these Byzanta Ware vases can cope with small bulbs

hyacinth bulbs in Byzanta Ware hyacinth vases

The clear "X" vase can handle a small bulb as can the bulb bowl, the squat cobalt blue has a garden centre bulb. I think maybe all the bulb bowls should have those small bulbs. They fit so much better than the large bulbs I've used before.

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

all these have the Sainsburys small hyacinth bulbs, the rose bowl and jam jar have pebbles for the bulbs to sit on

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

NB don't forget to wear gloves to handle the hyacinth bulbs if you're sensitive to them.

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