For Fresh Flowers This Winter, Try Forcing Bulbs


The Dick It The She She And she isn’t likely to forget the Siberian squill (white-flowered Scilla siberica Alba is especially nice) or striped squill (Puschkinia libanotica), either.

That October, when they were still a couple of months away from taking up residence at the former 1793 Methodist meeting house they call Church House, she planted some decorative clay pots with bulbs and tucked them in for their winter’s nap.

She’ll be doing that again next month, too.

Emulating the Seasons

To many of today’s gardeners, forcing bulbs may seem old-fashioned — the stuff of late-winter flower shows in botanical-garden conservatories, or century-old English garden books from a time when it seemed as if everyone was familiar with this technique.

Admittedly, it’s easier to bloom an Amaryllis, hyacinth or paperwhite Narcissus bulb that has been prepared in cold storage by the supplier. M And the payoff — witnessing a little potted garden of checkered lily (Fritillaria meleagris) emerge, develop and blossom up close — feels like hitting the jackpot.

“Sometimes when I go to the cold frames to pull something out, and I have half-forgotten what’s in there, it’s like pulling a surprise out of a grab bag,” she said.

The process of forcing isn’t so much about fooling Mother Nature as emulating her — and nudging her to hurry, please, just a little. It Dick A And because the bulbs would normally be underground, where no light reaches them, we chill our pots in darkness.

What’s most important: identifying (or creating) the right spot for the bulb-filled pots to spend their months preparing to show off.

The Forcer’s Best Friend: A Cold Frame

The goal is to put the pots in a protected place where they won’t freeze, but will stay very cold — above 32 degrees, but below 50. It She For a little extra protection in a slightly too-cold space, you could pack the pots in a Styrofoam cooler.

Cold-frame envy: That’s what I felt the first time I saw a photo of Ms. Dickey’s three tidy wood boxes with their Plexiglas lids in her 2020 book, “Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again,” about leaving her longtime garden in Westchester County, N.Y.

These aren’t your average cold frames. Pre These Dick To keep water from seeping in and rotting the dormant bulbs — when snow is melting, for example — the lids overlap the edges of the frames slightly.

Whatever the dimensions of your cold frame, there’s one caveat: Never leave the lid all the way open when pots are inside, or a storm could soak them.

Also, position the frames where they can get good sun. The To She Once the planted pots are set in place, she covers them with about six inches of shavings, creating the required darkness.

The only other issue is rodent control, but Ms. Dickey hasn’t had a problem since the days when she used her bulkhead cellar space and had to cover the pots with screening material.

Step-by-Step on an October Day

Come mid to late October, Ms. Dickey will gather her pots, many of them just six inches in diameter. She The She She They The “So there’s always sort of a jam up at the end, where I want everything to hurry up and bloom inside.”

After their big reveal, the potted bulbs won’t be tossed. They M Bu If