A cunning plan for plant growth

The same subterfuge used to convince potato tubers that they've experienced winter and now need to get growing, also works with certain bulbs.

Sunday, 8th October 2017, 3:54 pm
Plan your winter displays now. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

When you see the notice ‘prepared hyacinths’ at the garden centre and note that they cost more per bulb than ordinary hyacinths, that’s because they are capable of blooming early, provided you follow a specific routine.

They need two months in a cold, dark environment to encourage root development, followed by two weeks of weaning the emerging shoots into full daylight.

Purchase plant in pots or bowls, plunge them into darkness this weekend, and there’s a good chance of them flowering over Christmas.

With your attractive container selected, ensure the compost of choice is moist. Plant the hyacinths so they’re not touching, and with their tips just showing.

Now for the cold, dark period that will encourage strong roots. It can be outdoors beside a wall or in a cold frame, with a complete covering of sand overhead. This way there’s no maintenance.

Plunge them into the sand pit one week and excavate two months later. Alternatively, place inside a box in the cold garage or shed, cover to encourage darkness, and check regularly for mouse activity.

Dwarf narcissi and taller, multi-bloomed fragrant types, such as Paper White, Iris reticulata and danfordiae, along with species crocus, all respond well to forcing.

When they eventually emerge into daylight and flower shoots appear, offer support to hyacinths and taller narcissi. This can look so natural if twigs of spiraea or snowberry are used. Covering the compost surface with fresh moss raked from the lawn just finishes the job.