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. 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 don’t have a spare refrigerator? Then perhaps you can find another dark, cold (35-45 degrees) place for your bulbs. The cellar, attic, unheated guestroom or barely-heated garage or enclosed porch 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 hyacinth to a light, cool location. Then, when a flower stalk emerges, set the vase in a sunny but cool window. At this time, temperatures between 55F-65F are best.
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) before a window 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 they offer when the snow falls in January.
Questions? Talk to me in the comments field below. As always, I love to hear from you.
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