last hyacinth bulb in latest hyacinth vase purchased

My fears about attempting to force muscari in vases have been realized. They have ample roots and extensive growth and it's only October! What to do with them? It's early to bring them out of the cellar but how long can leaves survive in the dark? The box says bring them out when 4 cm tall. This is about 10 cm tall. My instinct is to bring plants with such extensive "green" (would be green if there was sunlight) growth into the light.

muscari forced on water in vase

not every bulb has such extensive growth, I guess I could bring some out into the light and leave some in the dark

muscari forced on water in vases

the muscari in pots are also growing quite tall, there are roots there coming out above the compost for some reason

muscari forced in a pot

I tried to finish up the rest of the small tulips, Little Princess tulip bulbs planted in blue and white pot (borage in pot to the right)

blue and white pot planted with Red Hunter tulips

Little Princess tulips in this terracotta pot

small tobacco jar planted with small tulips

small tobacco jar with lid

Red Hunter tulips planted in this golden syrup tin

golden syrup tin planted with tulips

I put Little Princess tulip bulbs in 2 or 3 of these pots in a rack

rack of pots planted with bulbs

this was a few weeks ago when my bulb orders were in those boxes, the cats came outside with me, I didn't even notice Billy (black and white cat next door) until I processed the pic on my computer

cats in garden starting indoor bulbs

Mid-October, I put my last hyacinth bulb in the latest hyacinth vase I purchased on ebay (as if I didn't have enough already). My husband thinks the cellar is too full of bulbs - it was his mum who inspired my interest! I'd never seen a hyacinth vase in the US until I came to the UK and saw hers. I'm afraid I still can't resist an impulse buy on ebay if it's a really great vase.

green Victorian dropped bulbous hyacinth vase

One of my least favourite tasks of bulb forcing must be done today - watering any pots in the cellar. I think the vases do pretty well left alone, the bulb acts like a plug and prevents the water evaporating but the pots with compost dry out and the bulb bowls allow water evaporation so they need watering/topping up.

final hyacinth bulbs, small species tulip bulbs and muscari bulbs

Beginning of October and I'm down to the final 4 hyacinth bulbs. The Bloms Blue Eyes bulb in the front looks terrible but I'll plant it and see what happens. I bought this hyacinth vase recently.

hyacinth vase and hyacinth bulbs

species tulips are quite small bulbs so will fit in the Shorter and Son flower troughs, using Little Beaty, Little Princess and Red Hunter tulips

small bulbs Shorter flower troughs

I planted the cat and mouse pot with a hyacinth bulb and also the blue and white biscuit barrel in the pic above.

Shorter flower troughs with small bulbs

Marks and Spencer has thrown down the gauntlet! They are selling some crocus vases with muscari bulbs labelled as one of the few bulbs suitable to grow on water. I have not seen muscari grown in vases. In fact, I have attempted to force them in compost and my conclusion was muscari will not bloom one day earlier indoors than out and in my experience earlier outdoors than indoors. I now have to try muscari in vases for myself. I am using my crocus vases which seem to be an appropriate size.

muscari bulbs and crocus vases

the bulblets need to be removed from the bulbs before they will fit properly in the vases

muscari bulbs and crocus vases

I assume muscari are like crocus and tulip bulbs, in that they need to be sitting with their base in water.

muscari bulbs and crocus vases

a week after I started the muscari above, I decided I had to buy the M+S set to try it out

M+S muscari bulb forcing set

the back of the box

M+S muscari bulb forcing set back of box

these M+S "muscari" vases are recognisable as crocus vases sold on ebay, vases filled with water, bulbs on top and into the cellar (10-10-2016)

M+S muscari vases

these vases (or the mold/mould used to make them) are so old they say "Product of EEC" on the base (the EEC became the EU in 1993, 26 years ago)

M+S muscari vase base

- UPDATE  February 2018 -

This does NOT work. Muscari will not bloom growing on water alone. Marks and Spencer refuse to hear any complaints about this product. They refuse to provide any evidence that it works. They refuse to investigate further as I don't have the product code. I didn't really think I needed to save that. It's so obviously a Marks and Spencer product. It was on sale again this past Autumn (October 2017).

starting other bulbs

Now that the hyacinths are (almost) all started I can think about other bulbs. I have put Little Beauty tulips in this Motto Ware bowl with crushed shells which seem appropriate to go with Hayling Island.

Hayling Island Motto Ware with Little Beauty tulips

some of the last hyacinth bulbs into ceramic containers

hyacinth bulbs in ceramic containers

starting more bulbs

I have now received my deJager and Bloms bulb orders and I have one conclusion - I bought too many hyacinth bulbs! I guess I usually do and then I panic where I'm going to "plant" them. I'm sure a few more pots with bulb fibre will be required before the first step (bulbs on water or compost into the dark for 12 weeks) of this bulb forcing is completed. NB it's generally recommended to use "prepared" hyacinth bulbs for forcing but I am using unprepared bulbs as well as prepared, some varieties for the first time but I will report back here my results.

my latest bulb forcing ebay purchase, a Davidson bulb bowl (thanks to reader Diana who brought this to my attention)

Davidson green frosted bulb bowl

I put Carribean Dream bulbs in this bulb bowl. The holes are reasonably large but I've had lots of large hyacinth bulbs this year to choose from so not a problem.

Davidson bulb bowl with Carribean Dream hyacinth bulbs

I also bought this unusual item on ebay, foreground, Broste vases in the background (with Fresco hyacinth bulbs). Not sure it's a bulb vase but I'm giving it a try with a large Silverstone hyacinth bulb.

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs

deJager Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs in these vases

hyacinth vases with Bloms Delft Blue hyacinths

nice and large Bloms Fresco hyacinth bulbs (unprepared)

Bloms Fresco hyacinth bulbs

some hyacinth vases with those Fresco hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth vases with Bloms Fresco hyacinth bulbs

Bloms Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

Bloms Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth vases with Bloms Delft Blue (following 2 pics)

hyacinth vases with Bloms Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth vases Bloms Blue Eyes hyacinth bulbs

vases with Bloms Purple Sensation, bulb bowl I am trying out with Blue Jacket but all 5 don't fit so will leave it at 4 bulbs and the hole in the middle empty

hyacinth bulb forcing September

the Bloms Silverstone hyacinth bulbs are huge, they are not "prepared" but I am going to try forcing them in vases anyway

Bloms Silverstone hyacinth bulbs

I'm not using this red amaryllis vase this year with an amaryllis but these Silverstone bulbs are so large thought I'd try one of those and also for these Prattware vases which require very large bulbs and using for the following vases as well

hyacinth vases with Bloms Silverstone hyacinth bulbs

hyacinth vases with Bloms Silverstone hyacinth bulbs

Bloms hyacinth bulbs Blue Eyes and Blue Jacket

Bloms Carribean Dream hyacinth bulbs

Bloms Carribean Dream hyacinth bulbs

nice large deJager Lady Derby hyacinth bulbs in my smaller SylvaC pot with the frogs

sylvac pot with frogs Lady Derby hyacinth bulbs

Delft blue and white pots and Yuan design improvised pot with deJager Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

Delft pots with deJager Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs

Monday, my Peter Nyssen order came: prepared Delft Blue, prepared Miss Saigon and trying for the first time (unprepared) Purple Star, City of Bradford and Blue Eyes

These vases all have Delft Blue.

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs

top shelf Delft Blue, table in foreground City of Bradford

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

City of Bradford

hyacinth vases with hyacinth bulbs

a few more bulbs started, Hornsea bulb pots, a small "unofficial" hyacinth vase

Hornsea bulb pots with hyacinth bulbs

classical style tobacco jars I am repurposing as bulb pots, they're beautiful quality and no one needs a tobacco jar anymore (or not many anyway)

terracotta tobacco jars with hyacinth bulbs

Yesterday, I wanted to finish starting the bulbs I had before my mail ordered bulbs arrived this week.

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

I still have 10 prepared Delft Blue hyacinth bulbs from the garden centre

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

these Byzanta Ware vases can cope with small bulbs

hyacinth bulbs in Byzanta Ware hyacinth vases

The clear "X" vase can handle a small bulb as can the bulb bowl, the squat cobalt blue has a garden centre bulb. I think maybe all the bulb bowls should have those small bulbs. They fit so much better than the large bulbs I've used before.

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

all these have the Sainsburys small hyacinth bulbs, the rose bowl and jam jar have pebbles for the bulbs to sit on

hyacinth bulbs in hyacinth vases

NB don't forget to wear gloves to handle the hyacinth bulbs if you're sensitive to them.

beginning of September, start of the 2016/2017 forcing season

Forcing Hyacinth Bulbs

1. Hyacinth Vases

It's the beginning of September, the prepared hyacinth bulbs are in the garden centre and it's the start of the forcing season. My first task is to start getting all my recent bulb vase purchases together and label them up with id numbers to match up with the spreadsheet where I keep track of how the bulbs are growing. As soon as I start, Bear has to get in on the act.

hyacinth vases

Those terracotta vases (second shelf) inspired me to look at tobacco jars as possible pots to plant bulbs in, one is on the bottom shelf.

2. Hyacinth Bulbs

I have some vases and other containers, now I need some hyacinth bulbs, preferably "prepared" for indoor forcing. I bought a few at the garden centre the other day as I couldn't resist seeing them for the first time this year.  Although I have ordered some they haven't arrived yet. They are at the supermarket, not prepared but I find they work anyway. The garden centre bulbs are huge (top shelf) which is good as some vases need the largest bulbs; the supermarket bulbs are quite small (second shelf) but that's okay as I have a number of vases that need small bulbs. The top shelf are "official" hyacinth vases. The second shelf are unofficial but work just fine.

hyacinth vases and bulbs

Most of the miscellaneous vases need a small bulb so I am using the supermarket ones except that candy jar which has a wide opening and needs a garden centre bulb.

hyacinth unofficial vases

the clear and silver vases in the middle need small bulbs, the other need/can accommodate the large ones

hyacinth vases with bulbs

the vases need to be filled with water to just below the bulbs

hyacinth vases with bulbs

3. Cool Dark Period

The vases need to be put someplace dark and cool for about 12 weeks so I'm putting this box of vases in the cellar. I'm ok with the dark putting them in the cellar but it's not that cool - certainly not at this time of year. The bulbs will just have to cope and they usually do. Hyacinths are very amenable that way - that's why they're so great for forcing.

hyacinth vases with bulbs

I will also be forcing some crocus and tulip bulbs but awaitng deliveries from the mail order bulb suppliers so after they arrive I will be adding more info here in a week or two.

Buying Bulbs Mail Order

There's something I've been trying to get my head round with buying bulbs mail order. If anyone else knows something about this or has an opinion about it, please get in touch (julie at

If one orders bulbs (even months before they are available eg June) they are charged immediately even though the bulbs may not be delivered for over 3 months, eg September. I don't like that. I can't imagine anyone would. I can't see anything in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (which replaced the Distance Selling Regulations in 2014) which specifies anything about this. I do know some companies, (eg Amazon) will not charge you until an item is shipped but I cannot see that timely shipping is specified in the regulations.

I ordered my bulbs in August because I didn't want to pay for them in June when I wouldn't get them until September. Now I have been told I'm in a queue with customers who ordered before me (in June) who will get their bulbs before me.

August 2016

It's time to buy bulbs. I placed 3 bulb orders (with Peter Nyssen, deJager and Bloms) this week as it's getting a bit late. August can be the time the prepared hyacinth bulbs are in the garden centre but when I went on Wednesday (couple days ago) and asked they unhelpfully said, could be September, could be October. I hate that garden centre. It has 1 advantage only: it's within walking distance. Even though I ordered some hyacinth bulbs I did want to see what the garden centre had - and of course probably buy more bulbs.

I only bought a few new vases this year, the modern one on the left (Ravenhead Naturals), shown with the 2 others just to compare the sizes, the amethyst one in a pic below on the windowsill with Socks and a similar green one below.

hyacinth vases

a vintage vase I bought at Alexandra Palace antiques fair earlier in the year, similar to the amethyst one posted in February below

hyacinth vase

an early start

a few days later, all 3 are in full bloom


They wanted to grow and I let them! and a couple weeks later, it's like Christmas in August.


end of July 2016

I don't usually update my garden withindoors quite so early but I found these amaryllis bulbs with not only green leaves but buds! in a bucket under the stairs so pretty much dark and dry but they wanted to grow!


fresh roots growing


I've potted them up as 1. I am fed up with amaryllis falling over in vases on water alone and 2. these were previously grown that way and have had no nutrition since then and I figure they need it. I haven't grown an amaryllis in a pot for years so will see how these do. It's not the usual time I would grow them if I was growing them (to me they're for Christmas) but they've decided to grow now and I've so thoroughly abused them I will try to make up for it and give them their way.



Bulb Orders

And, of course, aside from the amaryllis growing, it's time to think about ordering prepared bulbs. I am making a wish list.

end of the forcing season

I wanted to post a final photo to sum up bulb forcing for the end of the season

forced hyacinth bulbs in vases

I have compiled my forcing results for the 2015/2016 season.

crocus are going mad outside, I didn't have any in bloom indoors

2 items I bought at the Alexandra Palace antiques fair today (7-2-2016, all items look better with a cat in the pic!). The kind of glass I like best: bit wonky from hand-blowing, high kick-ups (dome inside at the base), pontil marks underneath and brilliant colours. I am happy with these finds today.

hyacinth vase and leech pot

fourth week of January

the remaining hyacinths - still looking and smelling great

When I'm in the midst of the forcing season I don't have time to properly deal with the spent bulbs, especially if it's very cold and wet. When I saw this crocus blooming on the compost pile yesterday I  decided I just had to try to plant the bulbs in the ground.

crocus blooming in compost pile

Planting these were the last thing I felt like doing! but I just had to. It was a bit warmer, the ice had melted so that was a good day to do it. I know forcing bulbs can be challenging. We just have to do what we can do - same with gardening outdoors. Let's do what we can and enjoy it.

spent hyacinth bulbs

a hyacinth is growing in front of the compost pile

bulbs that started off as indoors bulbs but now are outdoor bulbs

the outdoor bulbs a few days later

a close-up of the hyacinth bulbs, they have distinctive leaf colouring, this one I think is Delft Blue (left above)

I think this is Jan Bos (right above)

third week of January

This Miss Saigon hyacinth flower is one of the best this year. Better to ignore its roots outside the bulb bowl and the other bulbs left behind while it grows taller and develops a beautiful flower.

Miss Saigon hyacinth flower forced

I discovered these muscari in bloom outside. I can't believe they are so early. The weather has been crazy.

muscari in golden syrup tin

as soon as I started taking pics Socks had to start chewing the leaves (he has since thrown up)

these are the last hyacinths in bud and bloom

forced hyacinths in bloom

I think I must have bought more Skyline hyacinth bulbs than I at first thought as more are growing and blooming and becoming identifiable. Some of the Skyline flowers have opened up a bit better than others, such as the one on the left in the Hornsea Cirrus bulb pot. I was so happy with those Christmassy golden syrup tins but the hyacinths weren't even in bloom for Christmas, maybe some won't even bloom until the end of January!

skyline hyacinth forced blooms in hyacinth vases

some Skyline flowers never did develop properly

spent Skyline hyacinths

I wanted to properly compare the hyacinth flower colours, left to right: Miss Saigon, Splendid Cornelia, Anne Marie

comparison of hyacinth colours

as of January 21st these are the remaining hyacinths in bud, I would take the 2 best bulbs out of the bulb pot but the roots (from all 4 bulbs) are so tangled they would be destroyed

forced hyacinths in bud

I'm just about ready to call it a day with the crocus bulbs, plenty of roots and stem but no flowers. I have crocus outdoors in bloom, indoors they are supposed to be earlier. Why do I still keep growing the amaryllis bulbs in vases?? They are spectacular but they fall over. That one in the middle broke the flower stem when it fell and the amaryllis in the  big red vase on the right also fell over. Although you can see the bulbs are massive in size and way too big for the vases.


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