Sunday, October 19, 2008
Why I do bulbs in pots
You may think that I rely on bulb forcing and bulbs in containers just because I have a small space. Not at all. I could easily plant plenty of bulbs in my sunny or part-sunny beds. But over the years I’ve learned a few things about bulbs that make containers a preferable option in many cases. I still do plenty of tulips in the ground, but I do equally as many in pots, because:
1. Hybrid tulips do not return reliably except in ideal conditions: full sun and excellent drainage. I could never expect to plant them and have them come back for more than a year or maybe two.
2. Hyacinths return (for a while) but they tend to look stubby and artificial in a the ground (before they tip over, that is). The hyacinthoides hispanica do much better in a naturalizing situation. I think the old-fashioned charm of true hyacinths is best appreciated indoors. Back in the day, ambitious indoor gardeners forced hundreds of hyacinths every winter.
3. There are so many wonderful cultivars in the bulb world; containers allow me to grow different types every year. This year I am experimenting with 3 doubles in containers: the Orange Princess, Black Hero, and Yellow Mountain.
4. The big containers of tulips can be moved around for decorative purposes.
5. Bulbs are fun. Using containers allows me to have more fun with them.
For forcing, the hyacinths and tulips need to be placed near the top of the pot, with a thin layer of dirt on top, and they should be tightly packed, as shown above and below. They will need 8-12 weeks in a cool, dark, but not freezing room (40-50 degrees). When they come out, they should still be in a darker room for a week or so, and then moved near a sunny window. This year I am forcing Negrita and Amazone triumph tulips, and Carnegie, Raphael, and Isabelle hyacinths.
For containers that are to be stored in an unheated garage (above and below), the bulbs should act just as they would in the ground and be planted that way, about 6 inches down. In April the pots can come out. A thorough watering before they go in the garage and again when they come out should be enough.
Questions about forcing and container bulbs? Ask in comments. I’ve been doing it for some years, and might be able to help. Or not!