Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Middle South
October, 2003
Regional Report

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As I plant bulbs in the ground, I also set some in pots. These hyacinths and puschkinias will be ready to brighten up rooms next March.

Fun with Bulbs

For every bulb I plant in chilly fall soil, I plant another one in a pot. It's the best way I know to make spring happen both inside and outside my house. Best of all, the forced bulbs give me something fun to do in winter that involves growing beautiful plants.

If you're new at forcing, work with hyacinths. They're dependable, fragrant, and need only 12 weeks of cold. Most other bulbs need 15 weeks of temperatures below 45 degrees to insure uniform flowering.

At the garden center the other day, I saw color-coordinated collections of tulips, hyacinths, and other bulbs for planting together in pots. This is a neat idea that should work, though you have no guarantee that all the bulbs will bloom at the same time like the picture on the package says they will. Even so, these mixtures would be a good way to experiment with forcing different kinds of bulbs.

Forcing Finesse
I use a forcing method I picked up from Becky Heath (of Brent and Becky's Bulbs) a few years ago. After keeping my spring-flowering bulbs in the fridge until soil temperatures cool into the 40s (now), I plant them in small, 4-inch individual pots. These I keep outdoors, buried in a shallow hole. I cover the pots with boards to deter hungry squirrels, and pile chopped leaves over the boards. Starting in early February, I bring the pots into a cool room two or three at a time.

When the flower buds appear, I transplant the actively growing bulbs into prettier pots, with stones and tufts of moss on the surface to dress them up bit. I place my "bulbscapes" near my south-facing patio doors, where they get strong sun but remain somewhat cool during the night. The bulbs don't mind this shifting about one bit, and I get to do something creative to help usher in spring.

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