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.

second week of January

some of my best hyacinths this forcing season, I can't stop taking pics of this corner of the windowsill

hyacinths in forcing vases

the pink hyacinths were looking a bit sparse but they've really filled out

hyacinths blooming in hyacinth vases

hyacinths blooming in forcing vases

Victor and Socks looking totally indifferent to the hyacinths

cats and hyacinth vases

These are the remaining hyacinths today (14th Jan). Most in bloom but a few unopened buds.

hyacinth vases

the bulb bowl on the table has 3 hyacinth bulbs in very different sizes and 1 bulb that looks dead

I've discarded the 2 bulbs on the right (above) and put the other 2 in vases (below)

Close-up of some of the new (to me, I haven't grown them before) varieties of  hyacinths: Miss Saigon, Skyline, Fairy White. I love the way the Miss Saigon florets are bluish at their base. All the Miss Saigon bulbs I've grown this year are unprepared. They've forced very well unlike the Skyline which are prepared but don't seem to have grown properly or flowered properly.

hyacinth flowers in forcing vases

These 3 Skyline (lavender) are the only 3 bulbs of that variety I used this year as I had late purchases (2 vases and 1 bulb pot) to find bulbs for and those were the variety in the garden centre bins. Miss Saigon I've bought from 4 different suppliers, unprepared but they've forced ok.

hyacinth flowers in forcing vases

some hyacinths in bloom mid-January, tall amethyst vase Taylors Sky Line or Skyline (have seen it both spellings), green Tye vase Bloms Delft Blue, green squat left front is a very undeveloped deJager Delft Blue only the tiniest sprout out of the bulb, not ready to come out of the cellar but fear it won't ever be ready (other hyacinth varieties noted in following pics)

hyacinths in forcing vases

Peter Nyssen Fairy White on the left, deJager Delft Blue on the right

hyacinths in forcing vases

Peter Nyssen Miss Saigon - small but gorgeous buds, Fairy White on the right - also a bit small but very nice, think the Hornsea Cirrus bulb pot has Skyline but I bought it loose at the garden centre end of October and by then the bulbs were a bit mixed up

hyacinths in forcing vases

J Parkers Miss Saigon

hyacinth in prattware vase

J Parkers Miss Saigon?? that must be a mistake, their Sky Jacket turned out to be that colour, but I didn't realise other bulb(s) were also mixed up

hyacinth flower in forcing vase

last bulb bowls up from the cellar

I've had my pink hyacinths (Anne Marie/Ann Mary, Pink Pearl) in bloom before other varieties in past years but this year they are much later. (left to right, blue vases: 11 Peter Nyssen Anne Marie very sparse, 15 Peter Nyssen Anne Marie, 72 Bloms Bulbs Anne Marie, 92 or 93 Hornsea Cirrus bulb pot Peter Nyssen Anne Marie)

some of the latest vases up from the cellar, none of the bulbs are looking good, I'm not even taking these inside

hyacinth vases

none of those bulbs are worth keeping, I'm discarding them: (left to right) Bloms Anne Marie, Peter Nyssen Anne Marie, Peter Nyssen Anne Marie, deJager Delft Blue, deJager Delft Blue

these are the rest of the vases I brought up from the cellar today (11 Jan) and I'm going to try to keep them growing: (left to right): J Parkers Delft Blue, deJager Delft Blue, J Parkers Delft Blue, J Parkers Delft Blue

hyacinth bulb vases

the roots in the clear vases are visible above, the blue vase bulb is turned upside down, left below and has some short roots, pulling up the green vase bulb below right shows some good roots

a few days ago I also brought up the last of the bulb bowls

I was hoping some of the bulbs in the remaing bowls would catch up a little with the larger ones but no luck so far so I thought they really need to come upstairs even if only 1 bulb in each is going to bloom. Some of the crocus bulbs have very developed roots some have no roots at all. Bowl 4 on the left with Miss Saigon from 2 different suppliers, bowl 2 in the middle with 2 Splendid Cornelia and Miss Saigon and/or Delft Blue (that one got a bit confused), crocus bowl on the right.

hyacinths and crocus forced in bulb bowls

I just realized I hadn't uploaded this pic of the crocus vases which I took a week ago. Still no flowers but lots of roots.

crocus forcing vases

The Christmas-themed golden syrup tins are disappointingly out of season now. They were only ready to come up from the cellar this past week. The usual problems with amaryllis bulbs, not just falling over and breaking (therefore that short-stemmed flower in a vase) but one of the vases having a crack and leaking the water out and staining the table. Maybe the crack happened when they fell over?

hyacinth forcing vases

J Parkers Delft Blue looking a bit small but perfectly formed

hyacinth vase

bulb bowl 3 with deJager Miss Saigon

hyacinths blooming in a bulb bowl

bulb bowl 5 all bulbs bloomed (J Parkers "Sky Jacket" and Miss Saigon in the middle) but great variation in heights

hyacinths blooming in bulb bowl

bulb bowl 1 deJager Splendid Cornelia, only 1 bloomed

hyacinth bulbs in bulb bowl

another view of that bulb bowl from above, bulb flower buds on the left and on the right are both brown and dead


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