All we want in winter are early signs of spring—and forced flower bulbs are a way to make it happen.
EASY & AWESOME | If you’ve been casting around for the perfect mid-winter gift for someone who loves flowers but may not be a gardener, we recommend this beautiful low-maintenance no-brainer: flower bulbs in clear glass containers (so you can appreciate their roots) ready to burst into midwinter bloom.
With no soil required, forcing spring bulbs to bloom on water in glass vases (like the hyacinths pictured above) was a popular pastime in Victorian England. It is easier than you might think, though if you’ve never done it before you might want to start by forcing paperwhite bulbs (pictured below), which unlike hyacinths don’t need to be exposed to cold temperatures before blooming.
While forcing hyacinths requires an hourglass-shaped vase to ensure the bulb rests just above the water (we found great little kits containing a forcing glass and bulb for $8 each at Avant Gardener), paperwhites can be started in any undrained bowl with curved sides at least 2 to 3 inches deep or in a tall cylinder that will guarantee flowers remain upright.
To make a paperwhite arrangement, put several inches of pebbles, pea gravel or marbles into the bottom of the container. Add water until it barely reaches the surface. Set the bulbs on top pointed ends up and secure them with enough of the pebbles to cover the bottom quarter of each bulb. Check daily to maintain the water supply. In eight to 10 weeks, you’ll have a striking cluster of paperwhites, which can be held up with a decorative ribbon if they aren’t already supported by the tall walls of a cylinder vase. —Ruth Rainey
In West Vancouver, we found hyacinth forcing kits at Avant Gardener. Most florists and garden centres carry paperwhite bulbs at this time of year, and the best ones cost around a dollar each.
Photos, top to bottom: learn how to force hyacinths at agardenforthehouse.com; Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center