Just because winter is nearly here, it doesn’t mean your house or garden needs to lose its colour. With some careful planning, you can still have vibrant winter plants in no time this Christmas.
Decorations and lights aren’t the only way to brighten up your home and garden this Christmas. From fragrant hyacinths to vibrant amaryllis, you can easily add some festive colour come December. It might seem too early to think about Christmas shopping, but when it comes to your garden it’s never too soon to get planning.
It’s all in the method
The first step is to make sure you buy the correct bulbs. You need to find those that are labelled ‘prepared’ otherwise the process could take longer. You should also opt for bulb fibre compost, especially if you don’t have drainage holes in your container. Alternatively you can use soil-based compost if it has good texture and retains moisture.
After you’ve purchased your bulbs and compost of choice, follow these simple steps:
- Wet the fibre or compost and place a layer in the bottom of the bowl or pot.
- Place the bulbs on the fibre or compost so that they aren’t touching each other or the sides of the container.
- Fill around the bulbs with more fibre or compost and leave 1cm between the surface and the top of the container – to allow room for watering.
- Make sure the tops of the bulbs are showing.
Getting them to flower at Christmas
When you get your hands dirty depends on the type of bulb that you are planning on planting. Low temperatures can lead to slower development, so it might take a bit of trial and error before you work out the perfect strategy.
‘Pink Pearl’ hyacinths need 10 weeks of cool conditions followed by 22 days inside in order to bloom.
The ‘Anne Marie’ variety needs just eight weeks in cool conditions and 18 days indoors to flower.
Narcissus ‘Paper White’ daffodils naturally flower in January or February, but if the bulbs are good quality they’ll bloom six-ten weeks after planting.
Hippeastrum (amaryllis) takes 10 weeks to bloom, so start planting in October if you want flowers at Christmas.
Nurturing your bulbs
You need to keep them in a dark and cool place – ideally around 9oC – to help the bulbs develop a strong root system. You can house them in a black polythene bag and store in a dark corner of the shed or garage. Keep a regular check on the bulbs and water them if they show signs of drying out. An alternative method is to place them in a sunless position outside and cover with bark or compost.
When roots have developed and the shoots reach about 4-5cm in length, you can bring the bulbs indoors for display. Keep them in a cool room away from light to start with; this will make the leaves green up. Once this has happened, you can keep them by a window in warmer surroundings. Stand the pots or vases in a shallow tray with moist gravel if you can and keep an eye on them to see if they need watering.