This time of year, my mind shifts to finding ways I can still have local fresh flowers for the house even though the fields are frozen and nothing is growing outside.
Years ago, I started forcing spring bulbs, specifically hyacinths, to keep me in blooms during the dark days of the winter.
When exactly people started forcing flower bulbs in glass vases is not known, but it probably dates back to about 1700, or perhaps even earlier. There are diagrams depicting hyacinths in glass vases as early as 1732, although they were not as popular as tulips during that period. Hyacinths became really fashionable in the 18th century, taking over the dominant position that tulip possessed until that time. They are starting to be back in style again as people search for easy indoor winter blooms.
I always make sure to buy a bag of hyacinth bulbs in September that I throw into the basement fridge until the Holiday festivities are over. This fridge time is considered vernalization by the bulbs. They need to go through a cold period to initiate the flowers to grow. There are many perennials not just spring bulbs that need similar treatment.
My interest in hyacinths also led me to an obsession to collect hyacinth glasses. These glasses come in all different colours, shapes and sizes. The only common factor is that there is an approximate 2-inch hole as part of the pinched neck to hold the bulb in place.
This time of year, the hyacinths come out of the fridge and into the glasses. It is critical to make sure that the base of the bulb is barely touching the meniscus of the water. You want to encourage the roots to reach for the water. Some people suggest that charcoal be added to the water to make sure it stays clean. I have never found it necessary. If you have a water treatment system in your home, you should probably use bottled water instead.
In 4-6 weeks, the blooms start to show themselves. They do have a scent but I don’t find it to be as strong as bulbs that are planted in soil and grown indoors. The hyacinth fragrance is one of those things – you either love or hate it.
It brings great happiness to my soul to watch these blooms come to fruition. An added bonus is that once the ground outside thaws, the bulbs can be planted in your garden and enjoyed for years to come. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving.
P.S. If you have any special hyacinth glasses, send me a pic. I always love to see new and different styles.