Why wait until April to inhale the intoxicating air of hyacinths? Pot a few in early autumn, and then you can enjoy them — just as I do — when January blizzards blow! The bulbs can be forced in soil, in pebbles and water, or in special vases. I favor the vases because they are small enough to fit in narrow quarters, like the latch ledge of my parlor window (above). How to coax the bulbs into early bloom:
It’s easy to force a hyacinth in a bulb vase. In early autumn, fill the vase with water, and add a piece of aquarium charcoal, if you wish, to keep it sweet. When the bulb is in place (pointed tip up), the water should just touch the bulb’s basal plate. The basal plate is the flat bottom of a bulb, from where roots emerge.
Like all Dutch bulbs, a hyacinth grown in a vase needs to make its roots in a cold, dark place. I find that a shelf in my spare refrigerator works very well, providing fresh fruit is kept out. Ripening fruit gives off ethylene gas, which can sterilize bulbs.
What’s that you say?
You don’t have a spare refrigerator?
Well, perhaps you can find some other dark, cold (35-45 degrees) place for your bulbs. A cellar, attic, or garage might be bulb-storage possibilities for you.
As roots grow, top off the vases with more water as necessary.
After twelve weeks have passed, bring the hyacinths to a sunny but cool window. The flowers will last for weeks if temperatures do not exceed 65°F.
To encourage sturdy, upright growth, give the vase a quarter-turn every other day. Or, arrange several vases on the latch ledge of a window. As the flower stalk leans toward the light, the window glass will keep it from toppling over.
Hyacinths are fun to display. One winter, I arranged a “Spring Portrait” (pictured above) in my parlor. Plant stand, bottom shelf: Lavender and white Primula obconica. Top shelf: pink Begonia semperflorens and forced branches of forsythia. Window ledge: ‘Blue Jacket’ hyacinths, forced in small, amethyst-colored vases. .
Well, I hope you’ll consider forcing a few hyacinth bulbs for indoor winter enjoyment. You’ll be happy to have the color and perfume when the snow falls in January.
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