starting smaller bulbs: crocus, tulips, iris

Surprisingly, it was 6 weeks already since I put the small bulbs in the fridge so it's time to start them in their vases and pots. I started with the tulips, I have 3 different kinds. I've had mixed results with tulips in vases so thought I'd do all the small vases, both crocus and miscellaneous, with more tulips to see if I can see any consistent results. I find the crocus and tulips need to be sitting slightly in water unlike hyacinths which root very consistently being just above the water.

vases with tulips for forcing

Below are, from left, Lady Jane, "miniature Tulip Tubergen's variety" and "miniature mixed tulips" (according to the packages). These were the smallest tulip bulbs I could find. I'm still experiementing with forcing small bulbs so this year I just went by size, perhaps not the best criteria, but I am curious to see the results.

small tulip bulbs for forcing

small tulips in plastic vases for forcing

Next were the pots and small flower troughs, half of which I'm trying with grit and half with the indoor bulb fibre. I have two kinds of crocus, early and large Dutch and an iris reticulata.

pots and troughs with bulbs for forcing

pots with bulb fibre

Below are the flower troughs with grit and above the pots and troughs planted with bulb fibre.

flower toughs with bulbs with grit

Every vase has a bulb and every bulb is in a vase. I don't know how long this situation will last! I received this one in the post today. I haven't seen this exact shape before and I can't tell if it's old or new. I've put my last City of Haarlem hyacinth bulb in it.

green hyacinth vase

using unprepared bulbs

When I checked on the unprepared bulbs I'd put in the fridge in the cellar, I saw they were all rooting even though it's only been 4 weeks and I was going to give them 6 weeks, so I thought I might as well start them. The 10 smaller bulbs are Lady Derby - very small this year - but good for the Burmese vase below. The 3 larger bulbs are Peter Stuyvesant.

unprepared hyacinth bulbs after 4 weeks in the fridge

I bought the blue and white lid (from a bulb bowl) on ebay. It turns any suitably-sized pot or vase into a bulb bowl.

hyacinth vases

I think the pic below, although a little dark, shows the roots on the Lady Derby bulbs better.

Lady Derby unprepared hyacinths after 4 weeks in the fridge

balancing vases and bulbs

Between the misplaced clear tall vase (below) I just found and the green vase I couldn't  resist buying (below right) and the tall vases (below left) I had difficulty selling, I ended up needing a few more bulbs this week so I bought 10 more from the garden centre.

Every year I find it difficult to match up the number of vases with the number of bulbs. I always seem to be getting more of one, then more of the other, then more of the first and so on. I have 2 left of the 10 bulbs I just bought. I guess I need 2 more vases . . .

hyacinth vases with bulbs ready for forcing

As the selection of bulbs wasn't so great this week, being so late, I ended up buying some City of Haarlem. I don't think I've ever grown them before. The colour never appealed that much. When I considered today, after I'd got them home, which vases to put them in, I realised, they don't really match any of the vases I have. Why did I buy them??

bulb bowls, pots and vases

I have two new bulb bowls this year. They are much bigger than the only one I had last year which is too small for hyacinths but just right for large crocus bulbs.

bulb bowls with hyacinth bulbs

I have filled these with water, placed the hyacinth bulbs over the large holes and put them in the cellar with the rest of the pots and vases (some pictured below). I think if I used bulb fibre the roots would push the bulbs up and off the lids.

hyacinth vases in cellar

I'm still not sure what to do with these flower bricks. I think they are just for cut flowers but I'm not sure what type of flowers would work best. I guess tulips were very popular at the time they were first produced. I did think before of putting a bulb in the large hole in the middle but I have since read that that hole was for pouring in water.

bulb pots and flower bricks

These pots are awaiting the  crocus bulbs that are still in the fridge being prepared. After 6 weeks in the fridge I will pot them up but still keep them in the cellar but not in the fridge.

crocus pots

I cut this hyacinth bulb open to show the flower already developed inside. When the bulge of that flower is out of the bulb it is ready to come out of the dark (about 1 December).

hyacinth bulb cut open

These are not hyacinth vases although I use them to grow hyacinths. Any vase that holds the bulb above water can work as a hyacinth vase.

non-hyacinth vases

forcing hyacinth bulbs in pots

forcing hyacinth bulbs in pots

I love forcing hyacinths in vases but I also like growing them in pots and now that all the hyacinth vases are in the cellar with their prepared bulbs I can turn my attention to potting up the rest of the prepared bulbs I have. I got a special indoor bulb fibre this year and simply planted the bulbs in the pots with it. They will now go into the cellar as well.

x-shaped hyacinth vases

I bought another of these "x-shaped" vases this year. I think their vivid colours are great.

new vases for hyacinth forcing

forcing hyacinths in vasesThese black vases have quite large necks so I needed to choose some of the larger hyacinth bulbs to force in them. I think the vases are Victorian so I'm wondering, did growers produce larger hyacinth bulbs in the 19th century or are these, in fact, hyacinth vases. I'm certainly going to use them as such even if they are not "official".

These black vases have some intriguing scenes on them. I think the first one (below) is Hector's body being dragged by Achilles' chariot so using the Trojan War as a starting point I will try to identify the other scenes. If anyone recognises any of the scenes/figures (and/or the trademark image), please get in touch.

I have now found out that these are Pratt Ware with a Greek design that was used on a number of their other products as well.

Victorian black hyacinth vase with Trojan War scenes

Victorian black hyacinth vase with Trojan War scenes

I assume the scene below is Hector, his wife Andromache and son Astyanax, as he's going off to another battle.

Victorian black hyacinth vase with Trojan War scenes

Below is the trademark image on the bottom of both vases with the Discobolus of Myron.

Victorian trademark image with Discobolus of Myron

This is the second vase.

Victorian black hyacinth vase with Trojan War scenes

At some point Achilles is angry and sits with his cloak over his head but is this figure really Achilles? He doesn't look very impressive.

Victorian black hyacinth vase with Trojan War scenes

Victorian black hyacinth vase with Trojan War scenes

Victorian black hyacinth vase with Trojan War scenes

getting bulbs ready for forcing in vases and pots

hyacinth bulbs to force

Still awaiting my mail order bulbs so can't resist buying some locally. These China Pink hyacinths I haven't noticed before so I wanted to try them. They aren't "prepared" so will need 6 weeks in the fridge before I start them in the vases. I also need more small bulbs for containers so always looking for the smallest bulbs available. I'm still trying different varieties to see what works best. These two types of narcissus are quite small so I'm going to try them in these Shorter and Son flower troughs. All these bulbs (unplanted) will now go into the fridge for 6 weeks.

small bulbs for forcing

I don't know if bulb fibre or grit or pebbles is best for the pots. I'm still experimenting. I recently found a new product to try: bulb fibre especially for indoor bulbs. I will report back how it performs this year.

cleaning vases

In getting my bulb vases out I'm noticing how cloudy some of them are. These desperately need a clean. Bulb vases sitting with water in them for months seem to exacerbate the staining problem. Also London hard water? The cranberry vase got so cloudy recently so it could be a factor.

cloudy hyacinth vases

I've tried variously things in the past to clean vases but I'm going to try some stronger remedies now, including a Dremel to polish off the stains. Will post the results here.

I tried a local garden centre again at the weekend and found they did have bulbs in stock. I bought a few but nothing new or different. 

when will the bulbs ever be in stock?

miniature tulip bulbs and vasesI'm getting impatient to get some bulbs to force. I keep checking my local garden centres but they don't have them in stock yet. I finally gave in and bought a box of miniature tulips at Sainsburys. I got out the smaller vases to see which ones are the right size (above). That will keep me going for a little while. Last year I bought some bulbs on August 27th. Today's the 26th. What's delaying the bulbs this year? I'm sure I bought them even earlier the year before.

bulb vases to keep August 2012

I've chosen 46 vases to keep this year. Every year I need to cull some or else numbers get out of control. There are only so many vases I can fit on my window sill much as I love buying more. Below are a few of my new vases and pots. Only the green vase is a hyacinth vase and the bowl on the left a bulb bowl. The other items I'm going to use for bulbs although they are not officially for bulbs. The small blue and white pot is from Culpeper (now out of business). I'm quite curious about the ceramics they sold as some seem to be for bulbs and some are in a Delft style which I like. The trough at the back is a new (for me) Shorter and Son design.

new pots and vases

buying hyacinth bulbs for Christmas 2012

cobalt blue octagonal hyacinth vaseIt's time to think about buying hyacinth bulbs for forcing to be in bloom for Christmas. I got my first bulb catalogue very early this year - the Saturday before the Chelsea Flower Show in May but after all the research I did  last year  on the hyacinth bulb varieties available I decided to take a more casual approach this year. I haven't ordered any bulbs (yet) and am planning on buying some next week at a local garden centre.  Seeing the bulb sizes in person is very useful as I'm always looking for the smallest varieties to fit into the Shorter troughs. I'll probably also order some bulbs from one supplier but not from the suppliers who didn't even respond to my queries earlier this year.

In addition to prepared hyacinth bulbs and unprepared hyacinth bulbs to prepare myself I will buy some crocus and small tulips. I loved how some of the tulips (Little Princess, Red Hunter and White Dream) turned out last forcing season although others didn't bloom at all. Bulbs can be very fickle about being forced. I'm still using trial and error to find which varieties work and which don't.

I also can't resist buying more hyacinth vases. I love Victorian cobalt blue glass and was especially pleased to find this octagonal squat hyacinth vase as I didn't have one of this type.


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