Having spent much of the past year reading biographies and other history, I’ve developed an interest in Victorian garden practices.

Victorians loved hyacinths – more than tulips, daffodils and other fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs – and they also enjoyed forcing them to bloom during winter. They even had a special flower container for the job – a glass jar shaped like an hourglass with the top removed.

Ideally, you would have started this project eight weeks ago, when you could have left the bulbs in a dark area, such as an unheated garage or refrigerator, where the temperature was 35 to 45 degrees. If you haven’t done that – and I apologize for not reminding you earlier – you can purchase pre-chilled bulbs at some flower shops and online.

Fill your bulb forcing glass so the bottom of the bulb is about a quarter inch above the water. It shouldn’t actually touch the water or it will rot. Place the container in a dark area, where temperatures hover between 40 and 55 degrees; over a few weeks, the bottom of the bulb will put out roots that go into the water and the top of the bulb will produce a shoot. Change the water periodically, making sure the level stays just below the bulb bottom.

After about a month, bring the container into a room with bright but indirect light – a north window is perfect – with a temperature of about 65 degrees. Wait six to eight weeks more for a highly fragrant hyacinth blossom.

If you don’t have – or want to buy – one of the special containers, you can force hyacinth bulbs in potting soil, but I think the bulb vases are more fun.


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