My winter window garden looks like April today, thanks to the hardy bulbs I potted, vased, and “bowled” last autumn. In bloom now is Muscari armeniacum — the common “grape hyacinth.” Here are some pictures of its scented blue bells, along with my easy forcing-directions:
For January flowers, plant the bulbs in early October. You can pot the bulbs in soil, or arrange them in a bowl of pebbles and water. If you use an attractive bowl, you’ll find the bulbs can serve temporary decorative-duty on the dining table.
Now comes the challenging part: finding a dark, cold (35°F-45°F) place for the 10-week rooting-period the bulbs require. An unheated garage, a cold cellar, or a refrigerator will work. If you place the bulbs in your refrigerator, you will have to keep fresh fruit out. Fruit gives off ethylene gas, which can sterilize the bulbs. I let my bowl reside in my spare refrigerator for 4 weeks. Then I moved them to the cold cellar for 6 weeks.
During the cold duration, check the bulbs every week or so. Add water to the bowl as evaporation occurs.
When you are ready to force the bulbs, bring them to a sunny window in a cool room (65°F max). The bulbs will immediately send up thin strands of grass-green foliage. Flowers will emerge about 3 weeks later.
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