Forcing hyacinth bulbs to bloom indoors is simple; it just takes a little patience. It can take as long as 13 weeks for the bulbs to come into flower.
Hyacinth bulbs require a period of cooling before they will bloom. Florist suppliers often have precooled hyacinth bulbs available, ready for forcing. If you can’t find those, just store the bulbs for 8 to 12 weeks in a cold frame, outdoor shed, garage, or other dark area with temperatures from 35 to 45 degrees F. It’s important that you don’t expose bulbs to freezing temperatures and if you put them in the fridge, don’t place them next to apples. Apples produce a gas that will cause the bulbs to rot.
Once the bulbs have been precooled, you can force them into bloom in almost any planting medium: potting soil, gravel and water or just plain water. To make it easy on yourself try using glass “forcing jars.” You can find these at florist shops, hobby suppliers or garden centers. They look like hour glasses with the tops cut off.
To begin, place the bulb in a glass container and add water up to, but not touching, the bottom of the bulb (about 1/4″ below the base of the bulb). Bulbs sitting in water are prone to rot. This is where the forcing jars come in handy because they are cinched at the waist and the bulbs sit nicely just above the water.
Place the bulb and jar in a cool, dark area (about 50 degrees F – a cool cellar, an unheated garage or a regular family-style refrigerator) until the root system is well developed and growth from the top has begun. Do not store these in a refrigerator with fruits, especially apples. As fruits and some vegetables ripen, they release ethylene gas, which can kill or damage the flower.
Keep cool for 10 weeks. Add water periodically, always keeping the level of water close to the base of the bulb.
When the shoots are about 2 inches tall and the root system extends to the bottom of the glass, remove the jars to an intermediate area that has low light and slightly warmer temperatures. Over the next 3-4 days, gradually move your jars into a sunny window.
When the flowers appear, keep them in bright, indirect light. Temperatures of 60 degrees F to 65 degrees F will ensure longest flowering. Turn the jar a bit each day so that the flowers do not lean to one side as they reach for the sun.
SOPHIE THOMSON: As the mornings become chilly, it signals a slowing pace in the garden and for me, it means just one thing – time to plant spring bulbs and sometimes I like to plant them in pots so that I can bring them indoors and enjoy them when they’re flowering – like I am with these autumn flowering bulbs. They’re Autumn Snowflakes (Acis autumnalis).
Now pots are a great way to grow special or small bulbs so they don’t get lost in the garden and you can actually grow them in a more controlled environment. The important thing is that you need to use a good quality potting mix because bulbs hate wet feet and they need good drainage and I also like to use a bit of crock which is old broken terracotta pots – just to cover the drainage holes.
Now the first bulbs I’m going to plant are one of my favourites. This particular one is calledGalanthus elwesii(Giant Snowdrop.) In Australia, many people call Snowflakes Snowdrops. Snowflakes are those taller growing bulbs that grow to about 30, 40 centimetres high, they have a white flower and a little green spot on the outer petal. Now they’re actually Snowflakes orLeucojumand these are the true English Snowdrops. They’re only miniatures. They only grow to 10 centimetres high.
Now whenever you’re planting a bulb in the garden, the general rule of thumb is that you work out whatever height the bulb is and then you have 2 to 3 times that of soil above the bulb. Now because I’m planting these into pots, I don’t need to have them that deep and I’m actually going to have them sitting about halfway deep in the pot and so simply, you choose the bulb – you decide which is up and which is down – so the pointy end goes up – that’s where it shoots from and the bottom end is where the roots come from.
Now I’m also going to plant up a pot of species or dwarf tulips. It’s actually a species that comes from northern Iran and it’sTulipa montana. Now ‘montana’ means mountains. The interesting thing about this one is it gets to about 20 centimetres high, bright red flower, however it actually doesn’t have the same winter chilling requirements as most tulips do cause most people that plant tulips actually put them in the crisper of your fridge to chill them before they plant them, but you don’t have to do that with these ones – and top up with soil again.
And lastly, I’m going to make a bowl of hyacinths. I just love hyacinths for their intoxicating perfume and their beautiful flowers. Now as you can see, this bowl is quite shallow and so usually you’d like to plant your bulbs a bit deeper, but I have a little trick to make this work. Once you’ve planted your bowl, simply water it in well and then the trick is to actually cover it with a couple of sheets of newspaper. What this does is by depriving the bulbs of light, it forces really strong root development and it means that when the flowers do come, they’re less likely to flop over with all their heavy weight.
With all of your pots, put them in a sunny position and make sure they’re kept moist and keep an eye on them for when the flowers come so that you can take them inside.
COSTA GEORGIADIS: We all know that Angus is absolutely fascinated by plants, so where better to find him than at the Sydney Botanic Gardens, exploring his favourite plant family.