ever reliable hyacinths and trial and error with crocus and tulips

I definitely had too many vases to fill this forcing season but I can't resist buying more, especially these jewel coloured Victorian vases.

jewel coloured squat vases

jewel coloured squat vases

I sometimes wonder why people buy clear glass vases when the jewel-like colours of the Victorian vases are so beautiful.

jewel-coloured vases

hyacinth with 3rd stem

Hyacinths are so easy to grow, especially compared to other bulbs. They want to grow no matter what. I found this bulb outside in my pile of spent bulbs sprouting a 3rd flowering stem after the first 2 have wilted. Below is the hyacinth bulb I cut in half to show the developed flower inside before it started growing. I stuck it in a pot to see what would happen and as predicted it started to grow. It has a stem growing which I'm sure will eventually develop a flower.  These hyacinths are magic. Just stick them in a vase with water and they're soon rooting, unlike these crocus and tulips which are so hit and miss. I am still experimenting with them and through trial and error trying to figure out which varieties and what methods work best.


cut hyacinth sprouting

These small tulips rooted well at first and then all of this variety wilted without blooming. They were from the selection sold in the box (below) but the varieties are not marked.

wilted tulips

tulip box

Unfortunately the tulip on the left never bloomed properly although the flower is clearly visible in the still furled leaves. Why didn't it make that final lap? The tulip on the right has a very strange growth from the bottom of the bulb pushing the bulb right out of the vase. Is it a root-type growth or an additional stem? I can't tell. Below is another image of it outside the vase.

forced small tulip strange tulip















strange tulip

In contrast, this variety of tulip (centre, below)  has performed brilliantly; the only ones in the box to bloom.

forced tulips

tulips in bloom

Suddenly the tulips have burst into bloom. I did buy a box of assorted tulip bulbs but only this variety is blooming and they weren't named varieties so I don't know what this one is.

tulips in bloom indoors

tulip in bloom in truffle bottle

tulip in truffle bottle


I think these truffle bottles are a great size and shape for forcing tulips indoors. Unfortunately I can't get hold of any more. They're very sought-after on ebay.

The clear vases to the left are a pretty good size and shape as well (more visible above).









All the flowers of this variety of tulip wilted before they bloomed. I'll have to double-check the package to see if they did name the varieties.

wilted tulips


crocus growing downwards

crocus growing downwards


I was surprised to notice today a stem of this crocus growing downwards. There's a famous hyacinth vase illustration that features a hyacinth bulb growing downwards but I'd never seen a bulb actually grow that way before.




Most of the tall hyacinth vases I have are hand-blown but I recently bought the two on the right below which are mould-blown, although they do have snapped off pontil marks. You can see  the difference in the bases, the mould-blown bases being flat and the edges quite straight.

mould blown hyacinth vases

mould-blown bases

I haven't had much luck with this small bulb grower. One of the vases fell and shattered which surprised me as it's plastic and the small tulips in the vases are dying although they have good root growth. I don't know what went wrong there.

small bulb grower

Last hyacinths

These are just about the final hyacinths but the first (and probably only) crocus in a vase as it escaped the squirrels. I also had a crocus in a small pot. The hyacinths have been spectacular this year although all too brief.  Last year they were rather disappointing but it does prove my theory that the weather affected them. Obviously the weather for this year's was better and I've had better blooms to prove it. I'll have to do some analysis on which varieties/suppliers performed best.

last hyacinths

audio slideshow on the BBC news website

Lovely to share bulb forcing with the readers of the BBC website.

last hyacinths indoors

small bulbs

I've been so wrapped up with the hyacinths recently I haven't been paying much attention to the small bulbs. All desperately needed topping up with water when I checked them a few days ago. None are blooming yet. These are mostly new varieties for me so I'm not even sure if they willl bloom. None look even close to blooming except the lone crocus that survived the squirrels. Not watering them enough probably didn't help!

small bulbs in vases

first crocus in bloom and update on some of the hyacinths

Some hyacinths have the most intense colour when they wilt, for example, this Peter Stuyvesant hyacinth.

wilted Peter Stuyvesant hyacinth

These Peter Stuyvesant hyacinths have not performed very well this year. Still waiting to see how the one in the small clear vase on the bottom left blooms. The one on the bottom right (and above) never bloomed properly.

Peter Stuyvesant hyacinths

City of Haarlem hyacinths, below, are taking their time but may just turn into proper blooms.

City of Haarlem hyacinths

Some more nice examples.

small green hyacinth vase with Aiolos white hyacinthTye vase with Delft Blue hyacinth













My first crocus in bloom, below right.

opalescent vase with Delft Blue hyacinthfirst crocus in bloom













next wave of hyacinths

Yesterday I replaced all the vases on the windowsill. New hyacinths are in bloom every day.

hyacinths in bloom in vases

hyacinth vases

I'm trying to make sure I have photos of each vase/pot so I can analyse how each variety of bulb and each supplier's bulbs performed. More difficult this year as I have moved some bulbs between vases, both at the beginning of the forcing process in September and more recently as some bulbs wilted early or rotted.

hyacinths in bark basket

hyacinths in improvised bulb bowl

small green vase with Aiolos white hyacinth

large bulb bowl

hyacinth vases

hyacinth vases

This was my last vase in the cellar and although the bulb wasn't ready I brought it up anyway. The bulge of the flower is not out of the bulb and I guess it never will be. It just stopped growing for some reason.

orange ByzantaWare vase

I am left with lots of wilting flowers. Without the window to support them they are bending over.

wilting hyacinths in vases

hyacinths in bulb bowls

Bulb bowls have their pros and cons. The one on the left looks great: the hyacinths have great flowers, all 5 in a similar state of development and of a similar size. The bulb bowl in the middle had a rotted bulb which is a glaring gap. The bowl on the right has two of the 5 bulbs with undeveloped flowers so also a big gap. Bulb bowls are great if all the bulbs are similar but not if one or more bulbs doesn't grow at the same rate.

hyacinths in bulb bowls

That bulb bowl on the left looks even better a few days ago, below.

hyacinths in bulb bowl

I noticed just a couple days later some of these are looking much better and on their way to looking like normal hyacinth blooms. Maybe they'll all look ok eventually. I will note progress.
stunted hyacinths

Just a couple days ago I took a photo of these stunted hyacinths, below. The flowers should have a much longer stem and be well-above the bulb, as the ones on the windowsill.

deformed vs well-formed flowers

I haven't grown Ailos before but I think these are looking great. I will definitely use this variety again.

Ailos hyacinths in bloom in vases

The following 2 images are the Sky Jacket hyacinths that looked like asparagus until they started blooming. They've filled out pretty well although the flowers are smaller than some other varieties.

SKy Jacket hyacinths in bloom in vases

Sky Jacket hyacinths in bloom in vases

purple hyacinths

I do love purple hyacinths.

purple hyacinths

There are masses of hyacinths in bloom now, mostly purple but a few other colours as well, beginning of January.

hyacinths in bloom

Exquisite but very brief iris flowers.


The bulb in the black vase on the right started to rot a little (I filled it too high with water so the bulb was sitting in water) and therefore shrank so it fell into the vase. These vases have very large openings and need the largest bulbs. I had to replace the rotting bulb with one from another vase.


I have too many hyacinth vases to fit on the windowsill - and these are just the ones in bloom and starting to bloom.

hyacinths in bloom and starting to bloom

hyacinths in vases


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