Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Forcing Spring Bulbs

Inducing bulbs to bloom when you want them to, rather than when they normally do, is known as forcing. In late summer, most bulbs are dormant with little if any active root growth and no shoot growth. As soil temperatures cool, the bulbs begin root growth, which continues until the temperatures become very cold. Shoot growth begins in the spring as temperatures begin to rise, and is followed soon after by flowering. After bloom, foliage continues photosynthesis and replenishes food stores in the bulbs. As foliage begins to die back, the bulb returns to a dormant state and the cycle is ready to begin again. Forcing is simply manipulating this cycle.

The most common choices are hyacinths, tulips, narcissus, grape hyacinths and crocuses. Can you imagine some beautiful hyacinths blooming and fragrant on your dinning room table or coffee table. Most bulbs are forced in a shallow container of water using pebbles for support. When planting the bulbs they don't have to be completely covered. The tops can be exposed and I think doing so gives them an artsy kind of look. All of the spring-blooming bulbs, with the exception of Paperwhite narcissus, must have a cold period of at least three months to initiate bloom. You can achieve this by sticking your bulbs in the refrigerator or if the temperature is cold enough outside store them in a cold basement or garage. I don't recommend putting them in the freezer.

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