One Way Or Another, I Will Have Flowers

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Last month I told you about my failures forcing paperwhites. The first batch, packed into a narrow container that fit on the windowsill, blasted almost all their buds. My hopes were then pinned on the second batch, which I thought would bloom in time for Christmas. But they didn’t.

paperwhites in face mugs

These paperwhites are taller than their last picture, but aren’t close to blooming. Why?

I was watering them with a mixture of alcohol and water. Perhaps that stunted their growth too much? Maybe it was inconsistent watering? After all, I can’t see the water level. Or just plain not enough room for root growth?

If at first you don’t succeed . . .

On December 16th, I potted up my final batch of paperwhites, this time in potting soil. Lacking any more window space, I put them down in the 50°F(10°C) basement, under my seed starting lights and on the heat mat.

I raised the lights several inches above the bulbs, but on January 4th I noticed they had grown right up into the lights. Imagine my surprise when I raised the lights and discovered they had been blooming right up against the fluorescent bulbs.

Wintersun paperwhites in soil

The short blooming flower stalks were pressed up against the lights. The taller ones grew up and around the reflector shield.

But hey, they grew and bloomed.

Wintersun paperwhite closeup

Hallelujah! This is what I’ve been waiting for!

I will certainly try that next year, checking on them more frequently. Stronger light, cooler temps, bottom heat, potting soil, no alcohol. And the ones in the face mugs still haven’t bloomed. I’m going to put them under the lights today and see what happens, because I’m kicking them off the glass shelf to make room for…

hyacinths on glass

…the hyacinths that it’s time to force.

Yes, their ten weeks of chilling are up–and just in time, because the potting soil paperwhites are just about done blooming. I’ve been hogging precious refrigerator real estate to make sure the hyacinths get the chilling they need. I’m just never sure the basement will stay consistently between 40°F(4.4°C) and 50°F(10°C), which is what they require. The one that’s already showing buds is a gift from a friend, purchased at Aldi’s. How they get theirs to bloom so much earlier is a mystery to me.

Pay someone else to grow them

If I hadn’t remembered to order hyacinths bulbs, or if they had all gone moldy in the refrigerator, I would not have hesitated to purchase some at Aldi’s or any other place I could find them. Winter is a battle to keep your sanity and you should avail yourself of every (legal) means available to win the fight. Certainly you should not limit yourself to forced bulbs!

primrose from store

My husband was kind enough to gift me this sweet pot of primroses from the grocery store.

The nice thing about these primulas is that they are winter-hardy. As long as I can keep them alive through the rest of the winter, I can plant them out this spring and enjoy them in springs to come. My husband appreciates their wonderful scent, but I really can’t smell much of anything. That makes me a little bit sad, because fragrance is one of the things I treasure about flowers. Our family is divided: some can smell the primrose fragrance, and others can’t. How about you?

Meanwhile, in the Cabin Fever Bed…

hellebore November 10

One Helleborus niger is attempting to bloom. This was November 10th.

hellebore December 21

Some elongation of the stem by December 21st

hellebore January 2

Be still my heart! Has that bud actually opened a bit? January 2nd. And methinks I see two other buds!

The common name for this plant is Christmas rose, but clearly that ship has sailed and I might actually see open flowers by March. The plants have a light covering of snow right now, and with 8 to 12 inches(20.3 to 30.5cm) predicted for this weekend, I don’t expect to see any more progress in the near future. But at least I know there is a future!

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p class=”note”>Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens. Check it out at May Dreams Gardens.

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