Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Beginning of October

I recently got these bulb vases made by Hornsea Pottery. The one on the left is from the Cirrus range. The one one the right is from the Image range. I never even knew Hornsea did bulb vases or I would have sought them out sooner. Those muscari bulbs happened to be on the table while I was organising these vases. The little ones in the front are bulblets from the other bulbs.

Hornsea Pottery bulb pots vases

Here is the Cirrus vase with a hyacinth bulb. The two vases on the right are from glassroots. The cranberry glassroots vase (which is marked on the bottom) has the most amazing roots, considering it's only been in the cellar for the last few weeks. The green one on the right is totally unmarked but because of its similarity to the other one I feel certain it is indeed from glassrooots.

glassroots hyacinth vases

You don't need to use "official" hyacinth vases. The one on the left at the back is Hancock's Britainia ware which holds a hyacinth bulb just fine. The mother of pearl vase on the right at the back is unmarked but looks art nouveau to me. It can hold a hyacinth bulb or a small amaryllis bulb. As I just got a delivery of prepared hyacinth bulbs and I don't have any amaryllis bulbs yet, a hycinth bulb it is. By the way I doubt it was made as a bulb vase. As I bought it at the dump for 50p I don't mind!

hyacinth vases

This bulb pot is improvised with a bulb pot lid bought on ebay and a chipped vase I found in the cellar when we moved into this house. It can be difficult to fit 5 hyacinth bulbs on the top but these Ann Mary just about do it. Some proper bulb pots below.

improvised bulb pot


Now the hyacinths and crocus in vases are in the cellar, I can think about sorting out the other bulbs for forcing.

bulb forcing items

the truffle jars I use for tulip bulbs, the Shorter and Son troughs I use for the smallest bulbs I can find often crocus and/or tulips, once these items are sorted I can think about the amaryllis bulbs, including the white vase at the back

Hornsea Pottery Image bulb pot with a hyacinth bulb

Hornsea Pottery Image bulb pot/bulb vase

hornsea pottery bulb pot vase

a selection of Victorian hyacinth vases, tall and squat ones

hyacinth vases

1. Buy some bulbs

Beginning of September 2014, the local garden centre has just 5 varieties of prepared hyacinth bulbs:

Delft Blue (purple) I have had excellent results with Delft Blue. The combination of purple/blue colour and intoxicating scent makes it "the" hyacinth bulb for forcing, although I just can't it to bloom for Christmas. It generally blooms in January.

Pink Pearl (pink) I have not used Pink Pearl much but I'm using some again this year. Pink (of various varieties) is a great colour for forcing as it's the earliest.

White Pearl (white) I used to use L'Innocence, a white variety, with good results but apparently it's not grown much anymore.

Jan Bos (dark pink) Jan Bos has produced varying results, it's early and smaller.

City of Haarlem (yellow) I have never had good results from City of Haarlem. Maybe it's me but I am not going to use it again.

I also bought at the garden centre the next day, unprepared bulbs but thought I'd see how they do:

Spendid Cornelia

Gypsy Princess


Royal Navy

Aside from Carnegie I have never used these varieties.

hyacinth varieties

I ordered mail order L'Innocence (so someone is still growing it) and Ann Mary which I remember (used if a few years ago) was extremely early so want *some* for Christmas if possible. Unless you use a mail order company the selection of hyacinth varieties is very limited. I have used a few other varieties not listed here, I'll have to look up what they were.

2. Put the bulbs in the vases and fill with water

The next step is to get the vases out of the cellar and decide which colour of hyacinth would look best in which vase. Fill the vases with water to just under the bulb. Do not let the bulb sit in water or it will rot.

hyacinth vases

hyacinth vases

hyacinth vases

3. Put the Vases in the Dark (a cellar/closet/shed)

Leave for 12 to 15 weeks until the bulge of the flower in the stem has grown out of the bulb. More photos to follow.

bulb pots can be used as well as vases, these first two have removable lids but the one below is all one piece

hyacinth bulb pots

hyacinth bulb pot