Welcome to my blog about bulb forcing

bulb bowls hyacinth cat

The bulb forcing year starts in August/September buying bulbs. Then the bulbs quietly grow roots in the dark until the beginning of December when they are brought into the light and warmth and can begin blooming from Christmas day onwards when it is magic to have flowers and scent indoors in the middle of winter.

I force about 200 hyacinth bulbs each year. I try different hyacinth varieties from different bulb companies and compare how they perform. I'm always trying to formulate the best ways to force hyacinths and this is the documentation of my results. (please note that all text and images are copyright)

second week in January 2018

I've had a number of hyacinths in bloom so far this season so I'm already disposing of spent flowers. I generally accumulate the spent bulbs and plant them in one go when they're all finished and the weather is better to plant them in the garden. The vases on the table I just took out of the dark. They don't look very ready to come out but unless they come out soon they won't bloom this season.

disposing of spent hyacinths

while I was going through those spent hyacinths I found this one had a second stem yet to bloom, I cut the wilting stem off and put the bulb back in a vase to allow the second stem to bloom

forced hyacinth with second stem

I cut off that wilting stem and put the bulb in a vase

Miss Saigon hyacinth with second stem

these are still in the dark in the cellar, even smaller than the ones above

hyacinths still in the dark

I printed out my spreadsheet to update it while checking the hyacinths, Victor promptly sat on it

cat and forced hyacinths

I have run out of room on the windowsill (want to keep a bit in the middle for a cat to sit) so I've had to put the latest vases out of the dark on the table. None of these are as developed as I'd like but it's so late in the season now I'm worried about them having time to bloom.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

from that bulb bowl above, the hyacinth on the left is one of (if not "the") best this year, Blue Star (I think), in the middle Miss Saigon, the other 3 disppointing failures, no roots and on the right rotten:

failing hyacinth bulbs

although the two on the left look ok from above

failing hyacinth bulbs

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

These are Pink Elephant hyacinths. I haven't used them before. The stems are a bit sparse but they're interesting looking. They are not "prepared" but seem to have been forced just fine.

Pink Elephant hyacinths in hyacinth vases

the hyacinths develop at such different rates

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

some of the bulbs have bulblets I didn't notice when I started them, this one is well-developed

well-developed bulblet

I have tried planting bulblets in the past but without any roots they won't develop any and grow. I carefully cut off some of the bulblets with roots attached.

hyacinth bulblets

I potted the bulblets up.

hyacinth bulblets potted up

peak of hyacinth blooms - first week of January 2018

two of these hyacinths have double stems

forced hyacinths in bloom in hyacinth vases and bowl

different shades of bluish purple

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

I only noticed Stitch, a neighbour's cat sitting on the fence outside while processing this photo

hyacinths forced in hyacinth vases

forced hyacinths in bulb bowl

Jeffrey, a neighbour's cat, making himself at home

black cat with hyacinths forced in hyacinth vases

Victor having a drink outside where water has collected and Bear (Stitch's son) on the right

Stitch in her favourite position

cat on fence

hyacinths in bloom on New Year's Eve

The black and white vases have Caribbean Dream hyacinth bulbs, the bulb bowl Blue Star hyacinths and the uranium Rimac Fancy vase on the left a Delft Blue hyacinth.

forced hyacinth bulbs

a few days later and those Blue Star hyacinths are fully in bloom

Blue Star hyacinths in Davidson bulb bowl

forced hyacinth bulbs can shrink, as this one, and it's dropped through the hole

shrunken hyacinth bulb

This is such a gloomy January I've had to use flash to photograph the hyacinths. Caribbean Dream hyacinths in the black and white vases on the left. Delft Blue in the vases at the back; Blue Star front right.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

moving to the downstairs windowsill

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

fantastic blooms from this amaryllis bulb which has 2 stems: 3 large flowers on each; the bulb bowl on the right has 4 out of the 5 Splendid Cornelia bulbs in bloom; that one bulb hasn't grown - why??

amaryllis in amaryllis vase

view of the bulb bowl from the other side

bulb bowl splendid cornelia hyacinths

bulb bowl with Miss Saigon hyacinths

bulb bowl Miss Saigon hyacinths

This hyacinth bulb has 2 bulblets growing from it (usually it's just 1 if there're any) and 1 is so developed it's blooming. I usually remove any bulblets I notice so any energy from the bulb goes to the main flower, not developing a bulblet. In this case it's useful to make sure the shrinking bulb (all the bulbs shrink when forced) doesn't drop into the vase which has quite a large opening. The bulblets can grow and develop on their own if planted - but only if a bit of the basal plate of the bulb capable of growing roots is attached when they are removed from the parent bulb.

hyacinth bulb with bulblets

vases out of the dark January 3rd

forced hyacinth bulbs

the gardenwithindoors meets the gardenwithoutdoors: I noticed the fox in the garden in the background while I was taking photos of my hyacinth vases on the windowsill

gardenwithindoors meets gardenwithoutdoors

Merry Christmas

the best way to say Merry Christmas  (all Peter Nyssen Anne Marie hyacinths)

forced hyacinths Christmas

the day after Christmas

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

a few days after that

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

forced hyacinths

an amaryllis in an amaryllis vase

amaryllis in amaryllis vase

my first hyacinths in bloom this year

a second hyacinth in bloom, a week before Christmas so will definitely have some in bloom on Christmas day

Splendid Cornelia forced hyacinth

the scent of this one is pure spring

Splendid Cornelia forced hyacinth

my first hyacinth is in bloom (December 18th)

forced hyacinth in bloom

Most of these are starting to show their pink colour. In my experience pink hyacinths are usually the first in bloom.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

the amaryllis is getting tall; I hope that low vase will keep it from falling over as they often do

amaryllis in amaryllis vase

I think the hyacinths I took out of the dark the last few days may be my final ones out before Christmas. The shoots are a bit anemic as they've been in the dark but they green up after a few days in the light.

forced hyacinth bulbs vases

forced hyacinth bulbs vases

these came out of the dark a couple weeks ago and have really greened up

forced hyacinths vases

forced hyacinths vases

of the ones just out of the dark, the two on the right don't have very good roots but they're still growing

forced hyacinth bulbs vases

I don't know why some hyacinth bulbs just don't get going with roots

Ideal Stem Shape for a Forced Hyacinth

I just took this hyacinth out from the dark today (Dec 6th). It shows an ideal shape for the stem of the hyacinth when it is ready to come out of the dark. The bulge of the flower has clearly grown up out of the bulb.

forced hyacinth in hyacinth vase

first hyacinths out of the dark

The hyacinths need to be checked to see if they are ready to come out of the dark. The bulge of the flower needs to have moved out of the bulb. These seem to be ready. I'm surprised I have so many (18) ready to come into the light when they were started so late.

Even though the general length of time to keep the hyacinths in the dark initially is 12 weeks, it could be less. Check the bulbs and go by how they look. Of those first 18 out of the dark, 3 have been in the dark for 7 weeks, 9 have been in the dark for 8 weeks and 4 for 9 weeks.

Of the first 18, 7 are Anne Marie (usually the first in bloom), 5 Pacific Ocean (I haven't used these before but seem to be early), 2 Delft Blue, 2 Sainsburys, 1 Splendid Cornelia and 1 Caribbean Dream.

forced hyacinths out of the dark

the hyacinth flower can be seen between the leaves of the emerging stem, the others will be similar even if the flower is not visible, the shape of the stem shows the bulge of the flower

hyacinth bulbs

these hyacinths are not ready to come out of the dark yet

forced hyacinths not ready to come out of the dark

these hyacinths are not ready to come out of the dark yet, although the one front right is on the edge

hyacinths not ready to come out of the dark

As well as checking the hyacinth bulbs to see if they should be taken into the light, they should be checked for water levels but I find they generally don't need topping up. The vase below is typical. The bulb has acted like a plug to prevent the water evaporating

broste copenhagen vase with forced hyacinth vase

the more open vases have evaporation, I topped up the square vase on the left which had gone down to half full, it also shows the different growth rates of different bulbs and the problems of containers with more than 1 bulb, some bulbs are ready, some are not

hyacinths in the dark

I've brought those 18 hyacinth vases into the house. If I put many more on this windowsill Victor (or any of the other cats) won't have room to sit on it. The hyacinths really shouldn't be by a radiator but I have limited space.

forced hyacinths in hyacinth vases

amaryllis bulbs grow so quickly

this amaryllis bulb has two fat flower stems (on either side of the leaves in the centre) emerging after only 2 weeks

amaryllis bulb in amaryllis vase

a week later

amaryllis bulb in amaryllis vase

new hyacinth vase from Sainsbury's

I saw Sainsbury's had a new hyacinth vase for sale so had to get a closer look. It's a little late to be starting hyacinth bulbs (14-11-2017) but I had to see this new product.

I didn't notice the colour when it was inside the box - it's not very nice. I thought it would be quite basic and it is. Convenience is the main thing going for it.

Sainsburys hyacinth vase

sainsburys hyacinth vase

I filled it with water to just under the bulb and put it in the cellar with the rest of my hyacinth vases.

sainsburys hyacinth vase

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