Monday, December 7, 2009

In the Garden...Forcing Bulbs



In the Garden
By Catherine Dougherty

December arrived with blustery winds, dipping temperatures, and the feeling that Winter is here. The last leaves have fallen and the stark sculptural beauty of the bare trees has a tranquil feeling. The overgrowth of the lawns and fields has disappeared and suddenly a quiet order has descended. It is the season of rest for the garden and gardener alike.

As December gets underway, it is always enjoyable to bring some Spring into the house by forcing some bulbs for the holiday season. It is not too late to start the darling Paper White Narcissus, which can always be counted on to bring both fragrance and cheer to enhance the Christmas festivities.

First select large, top grade, flawless bulbs which are free of sooty mold. Next you will need some great gravel, some polished rocks, or some colored glass stones for your bulbs to nestle in. Stones and rocks may be purchased quite affordably in the hobby department of any popular store. The variety is amazing so when selecting them, try to imagine the flowers spilling out above them.

Select a rather shallow container for your display. Pick one that will be beautiful as a centerpiece on the dining table or in the living room. Translucent clear red and green glass stones in a shallow crystal bowl are spectacular for the holidays. If you choose a glass bowl then you will have the added joy watching the roots as they begin to sprout and grow, slowly twining in and about the rocks. Fill the bottom of your bowl with the stones, making a bed about two inches deep.

Gently press your bulbs into the gravel about half way down the bulb mass. Try to space them about two inches apart remembering to place them in the center as well. After arranging your bulbs, fill your container with enough water to cover your stones and thoroughly wet the bottom half of the bulb. Keep this water level constant, adding a little each day if needed.

As the roots grow, the reed like foliage will appear and then suddenly several small shoots will grow from each bulb. The small, folded, baby blossoms will appear and slowly open over several days. When the blooms first appear, give the bowl a shot of gin. It will force the greenery to stand at attention and it will prevent the wilting foliage so prevalent in forced Narcissus. I have no idea why the gin works, but it does.

The flowers smell marvelous and last several weeks before it is time to discard them. Once they are forced indoors the bulbs are spent; we have in effect killed them. Toss them, guilt free, after their stunning display is finished. Naturally, the larger the container you choose, the more bulbs you will need and the more riotous your display will be. I always feel that more is better!