Boho Spring with Forced Bulbs March 01 2014, 2 Comments

Bulb forcing vase from bomisch.comAvid gardeners enjoy spending the winter months planning the coming season’s new garden. Winter activity is a constant search for the perfect bloom or more robust variety of some bush or perennial that will fill out a particular corner. Each choice is visualized in place, anticipating the beauty and perfection that it will create.

Spring is anxiously anticipated for months. Spring is colorful and fragrantly full of hope. A welcome burst of light and energy. Spring chases away the chilliness of winter.

The perfect solution to the dreariness of winter is to make spring come early. Forcing spring bulbs is an easy and fun winter activity to make spring come when you most need it.

Many spring bulbs need to be pre-chilled, a process that replicates the seasons natural  environment. Pre-chilling can take 16 to 18 weeks which means September was the right time to prepare. The no wait option is to buy pre-chilled bulbs or one of the varieties that do not require chilling, and plant now. Paperwhite Narcissus is a favorite choice requiring no preparation and foolproof growing in dirt or water. They live naturally in areas that do not have a winter so chilling is not necessary.

Unable to find any bulbs in our local garden centers, Google helped locate White Flower Farm with a wonderful website filled with information and Ziva Paperwhite Narcissus. As an added bonus the farm has boho roots as well. Husband and wife, William Harris and Jane GPaperwhite bulbs from White Flower Farmrant (boho that Jane was, she kept her own name) made a house out of a small barn (so boho cool) in Litchfield, Connecticut in the 1930s. They were both writers, she for The New York Times and he for Fortune Magazine. Nature won out and gardening became their passion; so the White Flower Farm began (Yes! Drop the high stress, high pay job and opt for nature…in 1930!).

Paperwhites will happily grow in water in a bulb forcing vase (shown above and available on or any container if you keep the water level just below the bulb. If using a bowl, use glass marbles or pretty rocks to suspend the bulb base just above the water level to avoid rot. The bulbs should be set point up and very close together. A close grouping makes a more impressive statement when blooming.

Paperwhites grow just as easily in a pot with soil. Simply add a layer of moist dirt at least 2 inches deep for proper root growth and set the bulbs on top. 

Pyrite Nuggets for Indoor Gardening

Again, bulbsAmethyst rocks for indoor gardening should be set point up and close together. The bulbs can almost touch. Cover the bulbs with more dirt until just barely covered.

After planting, place in a bright but cool area; 60 degrees is better than 70 degrees. Water when the dirt is dry 1 inch below the surface and not more than once a week. If growing in water, keep the level just below the bulb. Once root growth has begun (about 3 weeks) move the container to a sunny window. Be careful to watch for dryness, once growth has begun you may need to water every day or two. Blooms will start showing in 4 to 6 weeks.

Cornell University did an interesting study and found the problem with Paperwhites growing too tall and becoming tippy can be overcome with a wee bit of drink. After root growth has started, add 5% of hard liquor (gin, rum, whiskey or tequila) to the water fed to Paperwhites and their stem height will be stunted, adding more strength to hold their flower heads well. The flowers themselves will be unaffected. Be careful, the alcohol level should be around a 5% solution and each liquor type has a different amount of alcohol content. Do not use beer or wine; or flavored liqueurs, they are too sugary for the job.

After your Paperwhites have finished blooming, you might as well compost the bulb. Forcing Paperwhites cannot be repeated with the same bulb.

A bulb, a pot, and a shot: a perfect recipe to create a bohemian spring.


Karen Sappington, amateur gardener

Posted by Karen Sappington

Amateur gardener & guest blogger