hyacinths are coming out of the cellar

It's been a very busy week. I started bringing hyacinths out of the cellar last weekend (Dec 9th) and then more yesterday (Dec 15th). Dec 1st is the traditional date to have them out if they are to bloom by Christmas but mine just weren't ready then.

The first lot of bulbs out of the cellar.

first lot of bulbs up from the cellar

These are most of the hyacinths I took out a week ago.

hyacinths week out of cellar

These are only just out of the cellar (lighter ones on the right and on the windowsill).

hyacinths out of cellar

These are the hyacinths just out of the cellar in shorter vases.

hyacinths just out of cellar

These are the hyacinths just out of the cellar in tall vases.

hyacinths just out of cellar

These are the hyacinths after a week out of the cellar in tall vases.

hyacinths in tall vases week out of cellar

fat buds on the hyacinths

Largest hyacinth buds so far, after a week out of the cellar.

fat hyacinth flower buds

I use this plastic box to safely carry the vases up and down stairs to and from the cellar.

safe carrying of hyacinth vases

X-shaped hyacinth vases, now out of the cellar with ripe hyacinth bulbs and full of roots.

x-shaped hyacinth vases

don't worry if you didn't start any bulbs yet

Even if you didn't start any bulbs in vases you can still have hyacinths in bloom in vases for Christmas (even though I did start bulbs I couldn't resist buying more vases so I need to do this too). You can transfer bulbs in pots on sale now to vases. These near me were on sale for £1.95 for single bulbs and £3.95 for a pot of three.

pot bulbs for vases

These are my new vases which I got ready and I took the bulbs out of the pots.

pot bulbs for vases

bulb with roots rinsed off


I tried soaking the roots in water to help the soil come away and gently rinsed off the roots. After I started I belatedly realized it would have been better just to buy single bulbs as the pot of three had entangled roots, not worth the effort for the savings.

The roots turned out to be very tightly packed and a bit difficult to get them into the vase. Some of the roots,  being very brittle, inevitably broke.

(and there's my new cat top right of the pic below, looking like a Friesian cow)


transferring bulbs from pots to vases

After some tedious effort rinsing off the roots and easing them into the vases, they look great. I wasn't going to use the Charles I vase this year as it's a bit big but it turned out to be ideal for accommodating the large roots.

bulbs from pots in vases

replacement small bulbs

As it turned out Sainsbury's still had the miniature tulips on sale but the snow crocus were out of stock of so I got those tulips and some narcissus minnow to replace the bulbs the squirrels ate.

I filled these glass pots with crushed shell mulch then filled them with water which I hope will provide a good medium for the roots of these narcissus minnow. I love that shell mulch but it's difficult to find for sale.

glass pots with narcissus minnow

I still don't know what this ceramic item is but it has holes in it so I'm tempted to put bulbs in it! In this case the narcissus minnow.

pot with narcissus minnow

I'm starting again with these miniature tulips so they're in the fridge. Last time I put them in the box in the fridge for 6 weeks then "planted" them but I'm in a hurry now so I've "planted" them first and put them in the fridge. I'm hoping the time in the fridge will overlap somewhat with the time in the dark.

bulbs in fridge

I noticed these iris in the cellar yesterday. It's quite early but they do look ready to come out so I've brought them up and put them on the windowsill.

Shorter geese trough with iris

hyacinth vases from the 1840s

I was really interested to find this illustration from Dickens' Dombey and Son yesterday with hyacinth vases on the mantelpiece. They are the tall churn shape from the 1840s before George Tye started producing his squat bulbous molded vases in 1850. This is only the third 19th century image I've found of contemporary hyacinth vases. They don't seem to have featured much in art and illustrations. (The other two are at One day - when I have time - I will continue merging the two sites).

hyacinth vases from Dombey and Son

Byzanta Ware Hyacinth Vases

I have yet to see these described as hyacinth vases but those no doubt in my mind that they are - perfect size and shape. I must research them further.

Byzanta Ware hyacinth vases

Both vase bases printed with:

"Byzanta" Ware Grimwades Stoke on Trent England

Byzanta Ware base

Byzanta Ware base

squirrels attack!

I've had a disaster with the small bulbs. The squirrels got into the cellar and decimated them. Here are the vases from October 19th  and most of them are empty.

crocus and tulip vases

The bulbs that survived do have decent roots on them.

roots of small bulbs

I had a few spare small bulbs which I was going to plant in these rose bowls, maybe with glass nuggets, but now I will put them in the now empty vases.

rose bowls

An update on the hyacinth bulbs in the bulb bowls, there are masses of roots. If I try to lift the bulbs to check on them they are immovable as there are so many roots. One bulb has some roots growing above the lid. I tried pushing them into the bowl but they just break off. Hyacinth roots can be quite brittle. Best to break off the errant roots so the bulb doesn't waste too much energy on them.

hyacinth bulbs on bulb bowl lid

Below are the empty flower troughs. The squirrels had a real feast. I may get some more bulbs to replace them. The boxes of small crocus and tulips from Sainsburys are quite reasonable. It will be too late to get them to bloom for Christmas but would hopefully have blooms sometime in January.

Shorter troughs

I seem to have a number of mouldy bulbs this year. I usually only have the odd one. I've turned this one over to show how mouldy it is. I rinsed the mould off and put it back. I did notice that it also has damage on the side. I was wondering if the damage caused the mould or vice versa.

damaged hyacinth bulb

mouldy hyacinth bulb

starting smaller bulbs: crocus, tulips, iris

Surprisingly, it was 6 weeks already since I put the small bulbs in the fridge so it's time to start them in their vases and pots. I started with the tulips, I have 3 different kinds. I've had mixed results with tulips in vases so thought I'd do all the small vases, both crocus and miscellaneous, with more tulips to see if I can see any consistent results. I find the crocus and tulips need to be sitting slightly in water unlike hyacinths which root very consistently being just above the water.

vases with tulips for forcing

Below are, from left, Lady Jane, "miniature Tulip Tubergen's variety" and "miniature mixed tulips" (according to the packages). These were the smallest tulip bulbs I could find. I'm still experiementing with forcing small bulbs so this year I just went by size, perhaps not the best criteria, but I am curious to see the results.

small tulip bulbs for forcing

small tulips in plastic vases for forcing

Next were the pots and small flower troughs, half of which I'm trying with grit and half with the indoor bulb fibre. I have two kinds of crocus, early and large Dutch and an iris reticulata.

pots and troughs with bulbs for forcing

pots with bulb fibre

Below are the flower troughs with grit and above the pots and troughs planted with bulb fibre.

flower toughs with bulbs with grit

Every vase has a bulb and every bulb is in a vase. I don't know how long this situation will last! I received this one in the post today. I haven't seen this exact shape before and I can't tell if it's old or new. I've put my last City of Haarlem hyacinth bulb in it.

green hyacinth vase

using unprepared bulbs

When I checked on the unprepared bulbs I'd put in the fridge in the cellar, I saw they were all rooting even though it's only been 4 weeks and I was going to give them 6 weeks, so I thought I might as well start them. The 10 smaller bulbs are Lady Derby - very small this year - but good for the Burmese vase below. The 3 larger bulbs are Peter Stuyvesant.

unprepared hyacinth bulbs after 4 weeks in the fridge

I bought the blue and white lid (from a bulb bowl) on ebay. It turns any suitably-sized pot or vase into a bulb bowl.

hyacinth vases

I think the pic below, although a little dark, shows the roots on the Lady Derby bulbs better.

Lady Derby unprepared hyacinths after 4 weeks in the fridge

balancing vases and bulbs

Between the misplaced clear tall vase (below) I just found and the green vase I couldn't  resist buying (below right) and the tall vases (below left) I had difficulty selling, I ended up needing a few more bulbs this week so I bought 10 more from the garden centre.

Every year I find it difficult to match up the number of vases with the number of bulbs. I always seem to be getting more of one, then more of the other, then more of the first and so on. I have 2 left of the 10 bulbs I just bought. I guess I need 2 more vases . . .

hyacinth vases with bulbs ready for forcing

As the selection of bulbs wasn't so great this week, being so late, I ended up buying some City of Haarlem. I don't think I've ever grown them before. The colour never appealed that much. When I considered today, after I'd got them home, which vases to put them in, I realised, they don't really match any of the vases I have. Why did I buy them??

bulb bowls, pots and vases

I have two new bulb bowls this year. They are much bigger than the only one I had last year which is too small for hyacinths but just right for large crocus bulbs.

bulb bowls with hyacinth bulbs

I have filled these with water, placed the hyacinth bulbs over the large holes and put them in the cellar with the rest of the pots and vases (some pictured below). I think if I used bulb fibre the roots would push the bulbs up and off the lids.

hyacinth vases in cellar

I'm still not sure what to do with these flower bricks. I think they are just for cut flowers but I'm not sure what type of flowers would work best. I guess tulips were very popular at the time they were first produced. I did think before of putting a bulb in the large hole in the middle but I have since read that that hole was for pouring in water.

bulb pots and flower bricks

These pots are awaiting the  crocus bulbs that are still in the fridge being prepared. After 6 weeks in the fridge I will pot them up but still keep them in the cellar but not in the fridge.

crocus pots

I cut this hyacinth bulb open to show the flower already developed inside. When the bulge of that flower is out of the bulb it is ready to come out of the dark (about 1 December).

hyacinth bulb cut open

These are not hyacinth vases although I use them to grow hyacinths. Any vase that holds the bulb above water can work as a hyacinth vase.

non-hyacinth vases

forcing hyacinth bulbs in pots

forcing hyacinth bulbs in pots

I love forcing hyacinths in vases but I also like growing them in pots and now that all the hyacinth vases are in the cellar with their prepared bulbs I can turn my attention to potting up the rest of the prepared bulbs I have. I got a special indoor bulb fibre this year and simply planted the bulbs in the pots with it. They will now go into the cellar as well.

x-shaped hyacinth vases

I bought another of these "x-shaped" vases this year. I think their vivid colours are great.


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