Forced to be Pretty

   Written by on December 28, 2017 at 12:50 pm

logo - walk in gardenNo, I’m not being forced to be pretty, that’s already the state of things. What I’m referring to is all of the forced bulbs that are given as Christmas gifts. Amaryllis, hyacinths and paper whites (narcissus) are the three most popular and you can buy them almost everywhere during the holiday shopping season – in pots, in boxes and in specialty vases with the bulbs suspended over water.

When it comes to indoor plants, I am most like that grumpy gardener in Southern Living. In other words, I just refuse to deal with them. Don’t know why I’m like that; certainly my heritage would indicate that I have a house full of greenery. Anyway, now that you have a spring flowering plant plunked down on your table in the middle of the winter, how do you make it bloom? How often should you water it? How much light does it need? Will it kill the cat who wants to make a meal of it?

A cousin visited over the weekend and brought a beautiful amaryllis. The first thing she did was cut off one of the tall stems! What in the world? She explained, however, that the plant had already bloomed on that stalk and there was no need to leave an unproductive stalk. Further instructions were to take the pot out of the pretty foil wrapping and set it on a saucer to catch water. Place the plant in a warm sunny spot and the remaining stalk, like magic, would live to bloom another day. That was this past Saturday and now, on Tuesday, I want you to know that plant has pushed out two more buds and I’m predicting blooms in another three or four days. By the way, I’m really forcing this one; it’s sitting on the coffee table very near the gas logs in the fire place and they’ve been burning constantly.

Another cousin spotted hyacinths in the grocery store, in clear glass vases made specifically for forcing bulbs. The bulb is suspended over water and its pure white roots hang like some sea creature from the bottom of the bulb into the water. This particular hyacinth is white, which was our grandfather’s favorite flower. The instructions on this one however, say to keep it in a cool, well-lit room with the vase kept three-quarters full of water. Like the amaryllis, it should be turned one-quarter every day so it will grow evenly and not lean toward the light source.

Paper white bulbs can be suspended in a shallow dish with gravel or small pretty stones. At least one third of the bulb should be kept above the stones. Add water to the dish until it reaches the bottom of the bulbs and keep it at that level throughout the blooming process. Start the bulbs out in a cool room for a few days and then move to a warmer spot with plenty of light.

Once foliage and buds appear, remember to rotate the dish as with other forced bulbs to keep the stems straight as they grow. Once your paper whites are blooming move them to a cooler spot to prolong blooming.

These pretty flowers accomplish exactly what they’re supposed to do: they brighten up your room in the dark days of winter. They’re not so hard after all to keep; fairly easy actually. Enjoy a touch of spring.

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