The holidays are over and the decorations have all been put away, so now in the dead of Winter, I want a bit of Spring time. To feed my craving, I start a mini garden of Spring flowering bulbs on my kitchen counter and windowsill.
Right after New Years Day, the florist department of my local grocery store puts out 4 and 6 inch pots of pre-chilled Daffodils, Hyacinth, Tulips, and on occasion Crocus, for sale. They start selling them after January 1, and seem to wrap up their offerings after Easter. I like to buy the smaller pots of bulbs, so the pots fit easily on the windowsill, and the smell of the blooming flowers in not that overwhelming. I try to find flowering bulbs that are just starting to emerge from the soil they are potted up in. That way I can watch / study their growth habits, as they go from just nubs, pushing up out of the soil, to their full beauty, when they are in flower.
You know, being inside, with the light coming in through the windows, and with the house being warm, their growth habits are accelerated. Just emerging hyacinth can be in full bloom in a week and a half, to two weeks time. Crocus, seem to magically go from nothing to something beautiful over night.
The Hyacinth, Daffodils and Tulips, after blooming get their stems and faded flowers cut off. Their leaves are kept intact, to naturally brown and die back. They, along with crocus, if I have any, go down to a cellar windowsill to spend the rest of Winter. I water them as needed. In early Spring I plant them in the garden. Many of the crocus, hyacinth, and daffodils that come up yearly, here at Whimsey Hill House, started out as part of my indoor Winter garden.
The Paperwhite Narcissus is another flower that makes up my indoor garden. For years I’ve had fun forcing them. Paperwhite bulbs are sold loose at garden centers. You can also find paperwhite kits at supermarkets, in the holiday aisle at nationally known pharmacies, and at hardware and discount stores.
If you force paperwhites only force 3 or 4 at a time. Just because you see mass indoor plantings of paperwhites in magazines, Don’t Do It. The smell would be overwhelming, unless you live in a GIGANTIC, Vanderbilt sized mansion. Even then, I would probably say Don’t bother. In my Nov 20, 2010 post, titled Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus, A little bit of Spring in the Dead of Winter, I cover all the easy to follow steps you take to force that flowering bulb.
After the first 3 or 4 paperwhite bulbs are done blooming, I pull the bulbs, greenery and spent flowers out of the crushed stones, I use to anchor them in while forcing. I then throw the bulbs away. In my part of the country, Upstate New York, USA zone 5-4, they are not meant for outdoor planting. I then nest more paperwhite bulbs in the stones, and start the next batch.
Along with the Spring flowering bulbs, I like to have some Amaryllis. Amaryllis bulbs, for Winter forcing, can be found locally at your neighborhood supermarket, big box hardware and discount stores, nationally known chain pharmacies, and garden centers. If you don’t have to have them now, you can order them through mail order catalogs.
All the Amaryllis bulbs that are put out for sale in November, December, and January should bloom for you that year. The bulbs offered, are big and healthy enough to produce a flower. They were all properly fertilized, and most likely not allowed to flower the growing season before they are put up for sale. The Amaryllis flower stem was probably cut off, so no energy was put into flower production. That year, leaf growth / photosynthesis, and bulb development was the most important issue, so you have a nice blooming plant.
After the Amaryllis bulbs are done blooming, they get their faded flowers and stem cut off, leaving only the foliage. They then go to another sunny window, where they spend the rest of Winter and early Spring. After all danger of a killing frost has passed (Memorial Day), they go outside to spend their Summer vacation on the south-east side of my house.
Finally, I think there is nothing more beautiful and appreciated visually than seeing something blooming inside, when everything outside is gray and looking dead. There is something about the look, color and smell of Spring blooming plants, that give hope and expectations of things to come.
Companion post ..Forcing Paperwhite Narcissus, A little bit of Spring in the dead of Winter 11-20-2010, How to Plant (Design) GARDEN. Mass versus Specimen planting 2-17-2011