Archive | December 2017

Forcing Bulbs for Winter Color

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tammy Borden

Who says gardening has to wait until spring? By forcing bulbs you are convincing a 5af4ee4d3b54cd5096b5ab4cfa505ee1--indoor-flowering-plants-indoor-flowersspring bulb that it has slept through the winter months and are encouraging it to bloom early. It’s wonderful to have bright blooms and sweet scents during the grey and drab days of winter.

Forcing bulbs is not too difficult. It just takes time, patience, and a little advance planning. It may be a little late to start forcing some types of bulbs for this winter, but some bulbs are ready to go and need no advance planning! Here are some easy steps to getting your own beautiful indoor blooms.

Step #1 – Select Your Bulbs

Many bulbs require pre-chilling in order to grow indoors (35-40ºF is recommended – like in your refrigerator!). The catch here is that many ripening vegetables and fruits, especially apples, release ethylene gas, which can kill or damage the flowers, so if you store produce in your refrigerator, try a partially heated garage instead or use bulbs that do not require pre-chilling. Here are some suggestions for bulbs that work well for indoor forcing:

  • Amaryllis (requires no chilling)
  • Hyacinth (12-16 weeks of chilling)
  • Tulip and daffodil (12-16 weeks of chilling)
  • Crocus and grape hyacinth (12-14 weeks of chilling)
  • Paperwhite narcissus (Requires no chilling)
  • Autumn crocus or Colchicum autumnale (Requires no chilling)
  • Dutch Iris or Iris reticulata (Requires no chilling, but should be fed every 2 weeks)
  • Bluebells or Scilla (Requires no chilling)

Step #2 – Prepare Your Bulbs

There are several methods for growing bulbs indoors. Here are the most common:3d91d4169f8171f5f69d4648f30c4da9--amaryllis-bulbs-tulip-bulbs-in-a-vase

Pebbles & Water: Simply take a clear glass bowl, fill it with gravel or decorative stone. Firm the base of the pre-chilled bulbs into the pebbles until they stand firmly on their own. Next, fill water up to the base of the bulbs, but not high enough that it touches them (about 1/8 away). Keep it in a cool, dark location for a few weeks until they’re ready to bloom to help maintain strong stems and encourage root growth.

Water Forcing: There is an hourglass-shaped vase you can buy called a ‘Hyacinth Glass’. Simply fill the container with water, up to the tapered neck, set the pre-chilled bulb on the widened mouth of the container and it’s ready to grow. Again, do not let the bulb touch the water. Place bulbs in a dark, cool place for a few weeks before blooming.

Potting in Soil: Shallow pots are usually used for forcing, but you can use most anytp6kchcx1mts4wbeafa0 container, if it has holes for drainage. Fill the pot about 3/4 full with a peat based potting mix. Squeeze in as many bulbs as you can fit. You can use all one type or mix and match, but choose bulbs with a similar bloom time. Plant the bulbs flat side down and cover with potting mix. Leave the shoot tips poking out slightly above the soil line. Water until it comes out of the drainage holes. Next, chill the pot and all for the recommended time (above). You can do this by burying it in the ground outside, placing it in your garage, or in a refrigerator. When you bring the pot indoors, keep it in cooler temperatures for a few weeks until it’s ready to bloom.

Step #3 – After the Bloom

Unfortunately, forcing takes a lot out of a bulb so it may not bloom again for many seasons. Still, bulbs can be planted outside when the weather permits just as with any perennial. Do not remove the foliage until it has turned yellow. The bulbs should never be forced a second time, always start with new bulbs.

Have some fun this winter and give forcing a try!

You might also enjoy our previous blog posts on Forcing Amaryllis and Forcing Hyacinth



Natural Fabric Dye

Do you sometimes lament the lost “arts” – those talents from bygone days mastered by our ancestors before modernity made things easy? I’m reading a book called Corsets and Codpieces: A History of Outrageous Fashion, from Roman Times to the Modern Era, and it contains information about the use of plants to dye fabrics. For those of you who might want to resuscitate this lost art, I offer the following:

Wool_skein_coloured_with_natural_dyes_indigo,_lac,_madder_and_tesu_by_Himalayan_Weavers_in_Mussoorie“A mastery over the art of dying meant that up until and beyond the High Middle Ages English men and women were clothed in colours of almost every hue… One ancient work for dyestuffs is ‘ruaman’; the word ‘ruam’ meaning red, a colour obtained from the madder plant, indicating that most dyes were sourced from plants, roots and vegetables. Yet no fibres, thread or fabric would keep its depth of colour if not ‘fixed’. This was done with a ‘mordant’, a French word meaning ‘to bite’, which helped the dyes penetrate the fibres instead of simply lying on the top and being easily washed off. In order to fix and ‘brighten’ colours the favourites were burnt seaweed or kelp and lastly urine, which was readily available and collected by women in the mornings and left to grow stale to increase its strength and potency.

Natural_dyes_(2636803607)Colours themselves were taken from the roots, leaves, flowers or bark of plants with different parts of the same plant often yielding different hues… Yellow, with a mordant of alum, could be obtained from the barks of birch, ash and crab-apple trees. Wood and leaves of the poplar, the young roots of bracken, bramble and broom, onion skins, nettles, moss and marigold were just as effective in creating yellow, as were heather, dogwood and common dock leaves… A plant called weld yielded a light, clear yellow, as did meadowsweet sorrel, gorse blossoms and mare’s tail.

blue was commonly produced by fermenting woad leaves. Blackthorn, privet and elderberries could also be used, while bilberries and the roots of the yellow iris if fixed with iron also produced blue. Mud boiled in an iron pot would produce a very colourfast dull, black dye, the mixture able to produce a glossy black if oak chips or twigs were added. Brown could be obtained by using birch, bog-bean, briar and bramble roots. Dulse, otherwise known as seaweed, also produced various shades of brown, as did hops, larch needles, speedwell and lichens mixed with iron in a dye-pot. If green was required then foxgloves, flowering rush, the crumpled buds and leaf fronds of bracken, horsetail, nettles and privet berries would work. If a really dark green was desired then mixing weld with sheep dung gave a good depth of colour not to mention smell. Pinks and reds were derived from madder roots and a dyer could produce a whole spectrum of shades from coral to rust by skillfully raising the temperature of the dye vat by a few degrees. Blackthorn in a mordant of alum produced orange. Lady’s bedstraw and cudbear lichen mixed with ammonia [from properly aged urine] was the means of getting crimson.

And so it goes on to describe getting the royal shade of purple from whelk mucus, honey, salt and water. All things being equal, I think that some of the “old arts” might be better left lost to history!


The Learning Garden “Asian Garden” and “Herb Garden”

Asian Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Anne Anderson and Tom Wentzel

Tom and I did the square garden with Asian veggies. What I learn from the square garden is how much you can plant in one square. It’s amazing if one is limited on space how square gardening would be beneficial. The only problem was after the garden started to grow I was not sure what were weeds or the growing vegetable. Asian vegetables to me, looked like weeds or maybe they were! LOL!!! What I would do different is if there is more than one square with the same veggie, I would not have put them next to each other. Lastly, I should have brought my cats to clean up since watching them chase the mice would have been so entertaining!

Herb Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Mary Learman, Sue Mings, and Maureen Flanagan-Johnson

We continued the original theme by planting the more common herbs used in Greece, France, Italy and England. Since most herbs do not like wet feet, it took a little while before we saw any real growth. Then they did not stop. We framed each of the four plots with marigolds and made a Marigold Henge in the center. A couple of notes for next year will be to not to over-plant, plus to harvest more often. It actually needed little upkeep apart from the occasional pruning. But with schedules and the vagaries of the weather, they were not harvested often enough. One unexpected problem turned out to be that the voles had built a metropolis under the herb garden and it collapsed in several places. They also ate some of the roots. Ninja tactics will be employed next year.

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014