How to Capture Spring all Year Round
There is nothing more spectacular than a spring garden in full splendor. The show it puts on will take your breath away. With winter on the doorstep, you may be sad thinking you will have to wait for many long months to enjoy the brilliant colors and enticing aromas of spring bulbs. However, who says you have to wait until spring?
With a little gentle encouragement, you can coax a number of beautiful spring flowers to awaken early from their slumber and brighten your home now just in time for the holiday season. The good news is that you don’t have to be a gardening expert to make this happen, anyone can do it.
Best Bulbs to Force
Forcing bulbs is a way to take garden bulbs that normally grow outside and grow them inside. This is an especially attractive option for those gardeners who have long and cold winters. Forced bulbs make a thoughtful gift or an attractive living centerpiece, especially during the holiday season.
While there are many bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinth that require a set chilling period before they will bloom, there are some that are easy to force and do not require a chilling period.
One such bulb is the paperwhite (Narcissus papyraceus). Paperwhites are members of the daffodil family that grow in clusters of white flowers. They are, by far, the easiest and quickest of all bulbs to force. If you are a first time bulb forcer, this is the one for you.
No green thumb is necessary to force a paperwhite, and even your kids will love getting in on this project.
How to Force Paperwhites
A fairly tall glass vase works best for paperwhites as they tend to grow lanky quickly. The sides of the vase provide support for the bulb. However, any glass container, even wide and shallow containers, that allow you to monitor the water level, work.
For planting material choose small pebbles, glass marbles or small ornate stones. You just need a medium that will hold the bulbs in place.
Bulbs are available at most nurseries or through online retailers. Because they are so popular around the holidays, they are not hard to find.
Fill your container with planting material and place the bulbs, root side downwards (check for little roots, you should be able to see them) so that the pebbles cover about 1/2 of the bulb. These bulbs look really great when planted in a group. Just leave a fingertip-size space between each bulb and put some planting medium in between.
Pour enough water in the container to just touch the bottom part of the bulb. Too much water will cause the bulbs to rot. If you are using a taller glass vase- be very careful not to get water on the tops of the bulbs. In just a few days, roots will appear and will make their way to the bottom of the container, anchoring themselves in the rooting medium.
Keep the plants cool at this time – about 50 degrees F works best. The bulbs also prefer indirect light for a couple of weeks. After that, move them to direct light and give them more heat. Keep the water level consistent. Blooms will appear in 4-6 weeks.
Another popular and very beautiful bulb that is easy to force and requires no chilling period is the amaryllis. This exotic looking plant is best started in a dark place and moved into the light when the stalk reaches about 3 inches high. Unlike paperwhites, the amaryllis needs to be grown in potting soil as the roots will rot in water.
Choose a healthy bulb with a few visible roots for best results. Fill a 7 inch pot with potting mix and plant the bulb so that the top one-third is exposed. Because this flower can be quite top-heavy, it is best to add a stake to your container. Be sure to water the bulb well and move the pot into bright and indirect light.
Turn the pot every couple of days so that all parts of the plant get the same sun exposure. The soil should be kept moist but not saturated and it is best to water from the bottom by placing the pot in a shallow dish of water. In a few weeks, a stalk will appear. Be sure to turn the pot twice a week so that all parts of the stalk get equal exposure to sunlight. You can keep your plant for next year by cutting the stalk back after the flowers fade. Keep the soil moist until the plant goes dormant in the fall.
We hope you enjoy this infusion of spring !