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Force Spring to Come Early

Planting bulbs indoors brings the season a little sooner.

Forcing bulbs to grow indoors during the winter is an uplifting garden tradition. The sight and smell of freshly blooming hyacinth, daffodils and tulips tides us over until spring arrives outside.

You can buy greenhouse forced bulbs at nurseries and grocery stores. Or you can do it yourself with the bulbs in the cold garage or storage shed that you never got around to planting last fall. Chances are they are sprouting in the bag already like the forgotten tulips I just found.

I have forced bulbs two ways; in soil and suspended above water. Place flowers grown using either method in a sunny window.

For a pot of flowers, plant the bulbs shallowly in the soil, making sure the tips are poking out the top. Keep the bulbs moist, but make sure the pot has good drainage. Soaked bulbs will rot, not bloom. A little fertilizer always helps.

Bulbs will also bloom in a water-filled vessel. Suspend the bulbs above the water submerging only the very bottom where the roots grow. Keep an eye on the water level initially so the roots don’t dry out. Once the roots dangle down a bit, just make sure some portion of the root contacts the water. A refresh of the water and, again, a little fertilizer always helps.

Some scientists believe that smell is our best memory-evoking sense. A bouquet pleasing for the nose, like hyacinths, definitely reminds me of the spring the most. Be careful, however. Many gardeners force a tiny white flower called Paperwhites. While pretty, they smell like cat pee to me.

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