forcing bulbs indoors, Hippeastrum 'Royal Velvet', Hyacinth 'L'Innocence', Narcissi 'Grande Soleil d'Or', Narcissi 'Paper White'
My regular readers will know I approach January with a certain degree of trepidation. It’s much easier to feel positive and optimistic when there are twinkly Christmas lights to brighten the short, dark days of winter. Mince pies and mulled cider help too. Then January arrives, the Christmas decorations come down, there’s the metaphorical tightening of belts as we recover from seasonal expenditure and the physical loosening of belts to cope with all that festive food. The sense of anticipation which accompanies the Winter Solstice ebbs away as I’m still scrabbling away in the dark when I get up on a morning.
Something that has made a difference for me this winter has been the decision to grow indoor bulbs. This has been the first time I have managed to get my act together, remembering to not focus purely on spring and the outdoors when I ordered my bulbs back in the autumn. On the list were hyacinths, Narcissi ‘Paper White’ and ‘Grande Soleil d’Or’ and Hippeastrum ‘Red Velvet’. I was a bit dubious about whether I would like them or not so I stuck a tentative toe in the water and I didn’t go mad with the order.
My reluctance partly stemmed from my dislike of probably the most popular of all bulbs to force, the hyacinth. They have always seemed funny plants to me. With their short stumpy stalks and fat stubby trumpet flowers they just look a little odd, particularly when they’re grown directly in the ground. Perhaps if the flowers were more delicate or their stems longer, but as they are they have never done it for me. If Narcissi ‘Paper Whites’ are the Kate Moss of the bulb world, all willowy and sylphlike, then hyacinths have always seemed, to me, like a Les Dawson character, solid and stocky. Then there’s their famous scent. Potent is how I remembered it. My mum used to grow them, and with several on one windowsill I remember them being so overwhelming that a particular room was off-limits whilst they were in bloom. But browsing through the bulb catalogue back in August I thought I should give them another go. And I’m rather pleased I did because I have several in flower now brightening up the January gloom and filling my house with a delightful perfume. My selection of variety may have something to do with my new-found love of hyacinths. I picked the white flowering ‘L’Innocence’ which not only looks more stylish and modern than some but it also seems a little more delicate and a little less dumpy. As for the scent, it isn’t overpowering at all, and with the very occasional patch of sunshine or heat from the radiators warming the air the aroma is wafting through the house. So for bulbs indoors I’m won over but I remain to be convinced by them as additions to my borders.
The hyacinths weren’t the first of the bulbs to flower with the Narcissi ‘Paper White’ timing their opening for my birthday in November. They are the most delicate of flowers with a sparkly sheen to their purest of white petals. They are also one of the most perfumed of narcissi. The jury is still out on whether I like their scent or not. Occasionally I would wander into the kitchen and sniff the air and then start looking around for the offending aroma, checking the soles of shoes, emptying the bin etc, only then would I realise it was the narcissi. I have heard it likened to the whiff of cat wee before. But then there would be other times when it would smell completely different and quite beautiful. I’ll grow them again because they are so easy and home-grown flowers for a November birthday are too good to ignore.
The winter blooms continued with my hippeastrum. Its huge bulb took a while to get going but then I dug out my heated propagator and sat the pot on the base of this. It wasn’t long before a green stalk emerged. It kept on growing and growing in a triffid-like manner. When it reached nearly 3ft it started to show signs of a flower bud. Slowly, four individual trumpet-shaped flowers appeared with them finally opening on Boxing Day. The variety ‘Red Velvet’ couldn’t have been better named or more suited to the Christmas period with its luscious and humongous flowers. It was fascinating to watch it grow because I had never tried it before, and there’s nothing like rekindling that child-like wonder by cultivating something new. I might look to see if there are any smaller varieties though as it’s tall and increasingly leaning flower stalk have given some cause for concern.
In the greenhouse I have a large pot of Narcissi ‘Grande Soleil d’Or’ and some crocus waiting to be brought indoors. The extra warmth inside will speed them into growth for an earlier show and keep up the succession of winter blooms. And, whilst I’m waiting for the days to lengthen and the weather to improve, my indoor flowers are providing some much-needed cheer.
I love white hyacinths and their fragrance is wonderful, I see what you mean about them being short and stubby but have you noticed that if you plant them in the garden when they have finished flowering the following year they are much more daintier and more delicate? I like Paper whites but can’t stand the scent.That’s a lovely rich coloured Hippeastrum. These pots of colour and perfume really help to keep us going in January.
I have heard the forced bulbs can be much daintier once planted in the garden. I’ll give them a go, although I’m still not convinced by them in the ground. ;)I do know what you mean with the Paper Whites but I haven’t found them to be too strong so I was able to put up with it and the flowers are so beautiful. It is a stunning hippeastrum. Next year there are going to be many more. 😉
I grew paperwhites last year and really enjoyed them, but I do know what you mean about their perfume! they are now outside behind the greenhouse, I hope I haven’t missed them! It’s good to find something to cheer the winter gloom and you seemed to have found the right thing with the white hyacinths.
Fortunately the paper whites weren’t too bad and I can put up with it if it means flowers on my birthday.
Oh, snap! It’s the first time in ages that I’ve grown paperwhites – I saw a video that Dawn Isaac did for Into Gardens and immediately ordered a couple of packs of bulbs (but only got round to starting them off at Christmas!). I didn’t know about the scent they produced – I’m now hoping that it’s not like Viburnum x bodnantense. I bought a few prunings of that into the kitchen and also then kept wondering what the nasty niff was! Very pretty but I think in future I’ll just enjoy the flowers on the shrub!
That’s so interesting that you don’t like the smell of Viburnum bodnantense. I love it. You do have to pick them when the flowers just about to open as they don’t smell so good as they go over. But when they are fresh they should smell of a bit almondy, a bit vanilla like and very sweet.
I remember going into a polytunnel at college where there were some paper whites and with the warmth of the sun it was quite overpowering. I haven’t found them to be so bad at home though. Hope you find you like them.
I quite like the smell of the Narcissi, I don’t get cat wee, I more think of it as slightly chemical cleaner.
I like your white Hyacinths, they will grow taller and the flowers will be further apart when they are planted in the garden, so worth planting them out when finished. The Hippeastrum Red Velvet looks absolutely fabulous for Christmas, I must try them again.
I’ll give them a go in the garden. It is a stunning hippeastrum variety. I have plans for many more indoor bulbs next winter. 🙂
The Les Dawson of the bulb world? Now there’s an analogy! I think my white ones are L’Innocence too. Your amaryllis really is made of red velvet – makes me want to reach out and stroke the petals. I pinched May Dreams’ idea of including twigs in the pot with my amaryllis – I have placed it within a bigger cache pot, stuck some twisted hazel stems in and surrounded the top of the pot with sphagnum moss. The hazel should support the stem as it gets taller – will post a picture once it gets going
I know it was amazing when the hippeastrum was opening up. It did feel like velvet. I was going to do the whole twiggy support thing. I did it with the narcissi but at 3ft it seemed a bit excessive and I was worried someone would poke them eye. Will see if there are any smaller varieties out there too.
I missed the boat this year for early indoor bulbs, but I do have lots of pots of paperwhites and hyacinth L’Innocence growing well in the greenhouse. Last year I was greeted by a fantastic scent every time I opened the greenhouse door for a good six weeks in February and March. I found the scent was less overpowering in the greenhouse and the flowers lasted longer than they do in a warm house. Also I had the option of cutting the flowers or bringing pots indoors as I needed them. I have missed having paperwhites in flower before Christmas this year though, so I need to be more organised this year. Well done for getting yours ordered & planted in time!
Really love the sound of your greenhouse and all those scented blooms.
Any colour at this time of the year is good for the soul and sanity WW. I like hyacinths but like you have never warmed to them outdoors. The paperwhites are beautiful to gaze on but the aroma is too much for me. Your ‘Red Velvet’ is a beauty. I’ve just started off two hippeastrum bulbs today and will no doubt be scrutinising them closely from now onwards. This autumn I will pot up a few snowdrops to bring indoors to lighten and perfume a January windowsill.
Will look forward to hearing what you think about your hippeastrums and which varieties you are growing. I do love the idea of the snowdrops too. I haven’t done it before but will definitely try it. 🙂
Great article 🙂 good job
Reading this interesting, and informative, post makes me determined to grow some bulbs indoors. Yours all look rather impressive, especially that Hippeastrum. xx
Thank you Flighty. I can definitely recommend it. I’ve loved having them in the house and as the weather has been so miserable they really do keep that growing connection going.
I used to feel like you about January, until I started serious birdwatching and discovered that many birds actually do start chirping and singing in January, it has brought so much joy to my life.
Wow, I’m impressed with your Hippeastrum. I just cannot get them to flower the second year.
I have noticed lots of birds now that the rain has finally stopped here. They are singing away as if spring isn’t far away. Great to hear. I haven’t tried them for a second year so I’ll give it a go and see how I do.
Your comparison with Kate made me chuckle – I think paperwhite is so much prettier! We have so much to enjoy in the garden that I don’t feel the urge to grow lots of bulbs for the house. I have some in pots though to move onto the table on the terrace when their time has come. For me February is the longest month so fingers crossed it’ll pass quickly this year 😉
I have some winter flowering plants in the garden but the weather here has been so miserable since the start of December that it has been lovely to have the bulbs flowering indoors. We’ve had incessant rain and much of the country has been suffering from bad flooding, so not much opportunity to get out into the garden. I don’t mind February so much although it does depend on how bad the weather is. It tends to be the month when we’re most likely to get snow. Hope February speeds you through into spring. 🙂
I haven’t grown any indoor bulbs at all this year and I’m missing them. I think you either love them or hate them though, especially things like hyacinths which have such a strong perfume. I grew amaryllis for the first time last year, the speed in which they grow is amazing, I really should have grown another this year. I think I’d better write myself a note not to miss the boat again this year.
The hippeastrum was incredible. I did wonder if it was ever going to flower. I know it is so easy to forget, especially when you’re planning for spring. 🙂
Enjoyed reading your blog! I’m someone who adores scent in the garden but up till now, my attempts to bring that indoors has been limited to cut flowers and blooms. Forcing bulbs indoors to provide my fix, I confess to overlooking! Must take this on board and put right for next winter. Thanks!
Thank you. I’m really pleased you’ve enjoyed my blog. 🙂 I’ve already got plans for a much larger bulb order this autumn. 😉
Thanks WW an interesting article that I shall link to a note you have inspired me to write. Lovely photos too.
Thank you Dorris. Lovely to know I inspired you to write. That hyacinth is particularly photogenic I think.
Pingback: Winter blooms | digwithdorris
Sheds Direct said:
Great photos and a reminder to bring some of the garden indoors this year – Thanks
Thank you. It does help me to get through the winter. 🙂
I love hyacinths, they are in my garden and releasing a wonderful scent.