The Hamilton Spectator
Adventures of a windowsill gardener
Just two weeks from unwrapping the pots to full bloom — that’s a real success story in my books!
In early December, I planted two pots of spring bulbs in the hopes of coaxing them into bloom this winter.
Extra care was taken to follow the instructions I’d learned the previous week at a garden club meeting. I have had mixed success with potted bulbs and I was determined to succeed this time around.
After planting, the pots were fitted with cardboard lids that were firmly taped down, the pots were wrapped with bubble wrap, labelled and finally tucked away on a shelf (on an inside wall) in our unheated garage.
By early February, it was time to check on the bulbs. They had been resting for the specified eight weeks and if all went to plan, they should be ready to bring inside.
Like a kid opening a delicate present on Christmas morning, I tentatively unwrapped the packaging to find the cardboard covers had been lifted several centimetres above the pot by the spring-ready bulbs. The bulbs’ sheer will to survive was impressive. But all of the bulbs bore pale, anemic-looking tops — they were craving sunlight.
Spears of chartreuse coloured tulip foliage (about 2.5 centimetres tall) were just emerging, while the jaundiced crocus tops (3 to 5 cm tall) were a tangled mess. Both pots felt dry, so they were treated to a long drink of lukewarm water and set out on the kitchen counter to acclimatize overnight.
Within 24 hours of bringing the pots inside, the tops had taken on some green and seemed much happier. The plants were moved to a table in a west facing window to bask in the sunshine that had just arrived, as if on cue. Little by little, the malleable crocus sprouts were eased apart and straightened out.
While it might be too early to garden outside, I am getting my garden fix by monitoring the rapid progress of the potted bulbs — they had doubled in size and vigour within three days of bringing them indoors. Within just a week, the crocus were showing a little colour, but there was a little hitch in my plan.
We were heading out of town for a few days, just as the crocus were coming into flower. I didn’t want them in full bloom while I was away, could I possibly slow them down? Garden-grown spring bulbs slow down and even close up tight on cool days and then speed up their blooming on warm sunny days.
The pots were moved to a shelf below the garage window, where it would be bright but cool, while we were away. The pots were brought back inside on our return, and by the following morning, the first crocus flowers began to open. At this point, the tulips had already developed green flower buds, and within 48 hours they also came into flower.
Just two weeks from unwrapping the pots to full bloom — that’s a real success story in my books. What a treat to be photographing and enjoying homegrown bulbs during this week’s blast of winter weather.
Once the bulbs have finished flowering, they will be planted outside in a quiet spot in the back garden to gather strength and possibly bloom again next year.
You may have noticed two potted amaryllis bulbs in today’s picture of my spring garden table. While they may not be blooming just yet, I’m pleased as punch with their progress.
Last summer, several pots of amaryllis bulbs (from my winter collection) were lined up along the fence, in a spot that receives several hours of sunlight each day. The pots were virtually out of sight, but near my David Austin roses, so this bed received regular watering and feeding. The hidden amaryllis received the same attention as the roses. When the nights started to turn cool, the amaryllis were moved into the greenhouse.
After a summer of TLC, the amaryllis foliage was thick and glossy. Three of the plants had all developed several new leaves. One smallish bulb seemed to be struggling, it had only put out two new leaves.
By mid-October I stopped watering the pots to encourage the plants to go dormant. In early November the amaryllis were brought inside, pot and all, and set in the wine cellar.
By early December, the dried leaves were pulled away from the bulbs and the pots were placed in large paper grocery bags, with the tops rolled tight. I had heard that storing the bulbs in brown paper bags and leaving them alone until the buds started to swell, was the secret to getting amaryllis to rebloom.
In mid-February I moved the amaryllis out of the cold cellar and into the heated basement. I left the bags closed for the first week, then I noticed a green bud on one of the bulbs — it was coming back to life. I watered the pot and moved this plant up into the window. Within a week or so, the other three bulbs followed suit.
The smallest and least promising of the bulbs, which almost went to the compost pile, quickly produced two buds, as if to thank me for sparing its life last fall. Lesson learned: never give up.