Sunday, December 28, 2008
How to live dangerously with bulb forcing
There are many easy, relatively risk-free ways to force hyacinths, tulips, and other bulbs. Sometimes, I follow these guidelines, but other times, I willfully ignore them.
First, you choose bulbs that are recommended for forcing; usually these are the early blooming ones that require the shortest chilling period, so with tulips these would be the Single Early, Double Early, and Triumph varieties. Hyacinths have been used for forcing since the bulb craze of the seventeenth century, and the practice peaked in Victorian times. Since then, it has become far less popular (outside of the cut flower industry). I am not sure why some hyacinths force better than others, but they do. For example, the Carnegie and L’Innocence varieties force very well. Both are white though, which can get boring. I've also heard that Gypsy Queen and Pink Pearl are good forcers. (In the past I have had good luck with a lot of the blue varieties.) I got some Carnegie this year, and they are the furthest along of all my hyacinths, as you can see above.
I also got two somewhat unusual varieties, Isabelle and Raphael, neither of which are terribly advanced. They are both about the same reddish color, bulb-wise, and I’ve forgotten which is which. I think one of each are above, judging by the difference in root development. These are not especially recommended for forcing and who knows what might happen. Sometimes, when hyacinths are not particularly happy, you’ll get stubby stems with a few flowers. I have not brought the tulips up from the cellar yet, but even with those I took the chance of trying to force some Double Lates.
I prefer to start my bulbs over water in hyacinth glasses/vases or planted in pots w/dirt, and then chill them. This is just the way I learned to do it. Others prefer to chill the bulbs in a paper bag in the refrigerator and then plant them. (Carol/May Dreams Gardens chooses this method.) Either way, the chilling period should last at least 8 weeks.
So I’ve got strange varieties that may or may not work well and I use a chilling method that depends on the temperature in my root cellar. This adds some variables and uncertainties to the whole process, which is fine with me, because that’s the way gardening usually is.
I’ll be reporting on the progress of these as they develop. There are quite a few of them: between pots and vases, I have 44.