more bulb forcing experimentation

I'm still getting bulbs ready for forcing. I'm experimenting with hyacinths in these tins. I've tried hyacinths in the smaller size tins with varying results so hoping the larger tins will work better.

hyacinths in golden syrup tins

The red tin below shows the size comparison with the larger tins. It's extremely rusty on the other side but I'm hoping it will get through at least one more forcing season.

hyacinths in golden syrup tins

I'm using assorted small crocus in these smaller golden syrup tins. The black plastic pot front left has the bulblets (shown below from 10-10-2014). Sadly one was eaten by slugs, still 3 left.

crocus in golden syrup tins

These muscari (grape hyacinths) look desperate to come out of the cellar. I don't understand exactly how they grow, ie why are they sprouting now?

muscari in cat pot

These muscari in the wooden trough are so developed and so green, they've always been outside. I've brought the anemic ones in the white pot and the golden syrup tins out of the cellar.

muscari in white pot and golden syrup tins

This crocus in the geese Shorter and Son flower trough has pushed itself up, completely out of the pot.

crocus in geese trough

I've managed to ease the roots back into the pot. It got a little dirty in the process.

crocus in geese Shorter trough

this is just about my last hyacinth bulb for this season, I'm scrounging around for containers

hyacinth bulb over pebbles

mid-October, more bulb forcing preparation

I recently bought this Shorter and Son flower trough with squirrels at the ends on ebay. I seem to be the only one using these flower troughs; something about them caught my interest a few years ago.

squirrel Shorter and son trough

Having said that I will try anything that appeals, regardless of pottery company producing it. This little flower trough with a squirrel is just big enough for the smallest bulbs (species crocus). 4 hyacinth bulbs on pebbles in this square vase. One hyacinth bulb on top of pebbles in this rose bowl missing its grill. I'll stick bulbs in anything!

bulb forcing

You can see roots just starting on one of the hyacinth bulbs, above, which I'd left on the table outside and I think they got rained on. Hyacinths are so easy to force, they want to grow, no matter what. Tulips and crocus are not so easy. They have to be coaxed. I fill up their containers so the water reaches the bulbs, unlike hyacinths which will rot if in water, their roots will reach down to the water which should be just under the bulb but not touching it.

This truffle bottle (also bought on ebay recently) is just the right size for a dward tulip bulb.

truffle bottle with tulip bulb

I dropped one of the bottles that go in the holders in this plastic rack and it shattered. It's very old plastic. Another glass bottle I had of similar size and shape just fits. I think this was made for cuttings but of course, to me it seemed good for bulbs.

Having a few bulbs leftover I decided to use these small pots in a rack I got (yes, on ebay!) a few years ago. I forget what I planted, will have to check my notes.

pots in a rack

hyacinth bulblets

I took these bulblets off the hyacinth bulbs I "planted" (either in bulb fibre or in vases over water). I've had difficulty getting bulblets to grow but I think these with a bit of root will be more successful.

I went to the V and A last week and got to see some great historic bulb pots. Both of these are Wedgwood as I recall.

V and A bulb pot

V and A bulb pot

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

time to think about forcing bulbs this autumn

I love trying to get my hyacinths in bloom for Christmas so I try to start as early as possible. Yesterday (3 Sept) I found prepared hyacinth bulbs on sale in the local garden centre. I love being able to pick my own in those crates of bulbs they put out.

hyacinth bulbs

The prepared bulbs have had special treatment to get them ready for forcing. I usually buy prepared bulbs but I've also tried unprepared and they forced just fine. That's not scientific though. I need to try it again in a controlled way.

The varieties of bulbs I bought:

Delft Blue, my favourite but not usually in bloom until January

White Pearl, I haven't tried this type before

Pink Pearl, the pink varieties are usually in bloom first

Jan Bos, dark pink which seems to be shorter than others but also early


Of course, I haven't been able to resist buying some new vases.

I was lucky enough to get these 3 tall 19th century churn shape green vases (on the left), early 20th century amethyst vase next to them, light green vase next (also early 20th century), front and center the most common 19th century hyacinth vase on ebay - that doesn't mean I don't love them - I do and some of the intense purple-blue examples are fab (but I do prefer those tall wonky early hand-blown ones) , next to that a pressed glass peach vase (1930's?) I've seen lots of on ebay, just never had one myself.

hyacinth vases

vintage (not sure how vintage but certainly 20th century) clear vase on the right, new vases with engraved designs to the left

hyacinth vases

amethyst Victorian squat vase amidst some new vases

hyacinth vases

vase pique

I like flower bricks and vase piques but this is probably too big. I put the coke can in the pic to show scale. I don't know what to do with it!

vase pique

vase pique base

vase pique base


glassroots bulb vases

Below are the two glassroots vases I have, hyacinth vase on the left, crocus vase on the right, sadly broken by my cat. Considering I have 2 cats, I don't think 1 vase broken in the last 10 years is too bad. The hyacinth vase is very badly water stained inside. Sizes: 20.5 for the hyacinth vase, 8.2 for the crocus vase.

glassroots bulb vases

Golden Syrup tins

I am experimenting with the Golden Syrup tins to try to get the best effect. A hyacinth bulb on it's own is just too tall and falls over, especially without a window to lean it against (for the centre of the tables at Chin Chin).  Cutting the hyacinth short and packing the tin with shells, although pebbles or grit would work as well, to hold up the cut flowers seems to work better.

Golden Syrup tins with hyacinths and daffodils

I don't know what makes the £1 daffodils from Sainsburys open. Water? Sun? Heat? or how long it takes. I was at first pleased to get a whole bunch for only £1 but I soon realized, they aren't actually in bloom!

plant the spent hyacinths outside

It's time to plant the spent hyacinths outside, weather permitting. In the past it's been too cold. This year it's too wet! I do see some hyacinths from previous years are coming up.

spent forced hyacinths coming up

I just threw quite a number of the spent hyacinths on the flower beds awaiting planting. Those pink ones that didn't bloom properly went on the compost pile but the successful Delft Blue  (of which I had many) I am going to plant in the ground.

spent forced hyacinths

With so hyacinths wilting they initially ended up on the table. I have limited space inside for the bulbs and pots so I removed them as soon as they wilted.

spent forced hyacinths

yellow crocus, pink tulips, purple hyacinths

The next day one of the red tulips is opening up.

red tulip bud

This is my first (only?) yellow crocus in bloom. I generally prefer purple crocus but this definitely looks very cheerful the first sunny day in a while at the beginning of February.

yellow crocus

yesterday it was still in bud

yellow crocus

These tulips have done amazing this year. Every day I look at them, another is in bloom. That little blue and white pot in the middle is from Culpeper (as is one of the flower bricks). They certainly had some nice porcelain items before they went out of business. That Marie hyacinth in the green glass pot is just struggling to bloom but I don't think it's going to make it.

Little Beauty tulips

The Woodstock hyacinths are in bloom. My last ones, sadly. Just below that windowsill is a radiator - the worst place to put forced bulbs! but unfortunately I don't have anyplace else to put these. We all have to do the best we can with what we have.

Woodstock hyacinths


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