Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

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How to force small spring bulbs indoors

spring bulbs

When we think of growing Spring bulbs indoors we often think of hyacinths and paper white narcissi, maybe amaryllis. We think of the pots of ready planted, often quite boring, bulbs that line garden centre shelves at Christmas.

But all spring bulbs can be grown to flower indoors and, given our weather and the fact that they are often tiny, it is often the best way to actually see them properly.

At this time of year my home is full of flowering bulbs - I use them to help me through the part of the year which is darkest, they bring a bit of nature into my daily life. My favourites for January are snowdrops and crocus.

You can grow bulbs specifically for flowering indoors - this involves careful monitoring of temperature and light. I am not good at keeping track of things so instead I use 2 cheats ways of bringing spring flowers indoors.

arranging spring bulbs

Bulbs that transplant in the green - snowdrops, bluebells, snowflakes.

The first method that I use is to dig actual bulbs out of my garden as soon as I see them beginning to shoot and to carefully transplant them into containers for the house.

This is an ideal method for any bulbs that like to be transplanted 'in the green' (i.e. immediately after flowering) as you can bring them into the house to flower and then return them to the garden afterwards without damaging the plant.

  • Choose a clump of bulbs where you can see the flowers are already there.
  • Carefully dig up going much deeper than you think with your trowel - bulbs will drag themselves deep into the soil so they may well be much deeper than when you planted them - wiggle your trowel to make sure you are under the bulbs and not just going to dig out the flowers.
  • Put 2-3 cm grit into your container and then wedge your bulbs on top. You don't want to disturb the bulbs too much - you want them to be packed together as they will then hold each other up. The container doesn't need to have drainage.
  • Cover the soil with gravel, moss or dried leaves.
  • The arrangement will last longer if you can keep it cool - I compromise by having them in a heated house during the day and then on the doorstep overnight. The warmer it is the taller the flowers will get.
  • Once the flowers begin to fade plant back in the garden - either directly where they came from or separate into smaller clumps.

arranging spring bulbs

Bulbs that like to be planted as dry bulbs (crocus, grape hyacinths, snakehead fritillaries)

The other method is to start with potted bulbs. You can either buy them from a garden centre (the outdoor bit) or you can plant your own in Autumn and thenbring them indoors. These crocus have been my favourite flowers so far this year and they were bought as pots intended for putting together a spring planter and were less that £1 a pot.

  • If you are growing your own bulbs you need to plant into small pots or trays (mushroom trays work well) in the Autumn - leave somewhere sheltered but outside and protect from slugs and mice.
  • If you are buying pots, look for good deals in garden centres and supermarkets - they are usually intended as spring bedding so can often be bought cheaply in bulk. My favourites are crocus and snakehead fritillaries.
  • Add 2-3 cm grit to the bottom of your container and replant your bulbs into the container. Water sparingly.
  • Stagger your pots - leave some in the cold and bring others into the warmth to bloom, they will respond to the heat, the ones outside will stay in suspended animation, the ones indoors begin to flower.
  • After they have finished flowering you can plant them outside - they will recover but make sure they are watered for their first few weeks back in the soil. If you haven't got a garden then these make the ideal guerrilla gardening plants.

I love being able to look carefully at these tiny flowers - to see the delicate markings of the snowdrops, to actually be able to appreciate the purity of the crocus without them being splatted to the ground in a rainstorm (crocus in my garden look like litter 95% of the time because of the weather). I hope that you enjoy them too.

Comments: 1 (Add)

Lesley (Insta lilybabylulu) on January 19 2019 at 08:58

Thank you so much for sharing Jane. I have some snowdrops just budding in the garden which will later need dividing. Today I shall bring some indoors 😁

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The sun room table, an old enamel basin, hazel twigs and pure glamour from green tinged white trumpets.⁠⠀
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I looked up yesterday lunchtime and the garden was full of sunshine. ⁠⠀
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There are a few places in the (very messy) house where keeping a bit of negative space, clear surfaces, a sense of breathing out pays off.  This white table is one of them.⁠⠀
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I took this on Sunday, disappointingly it is currently cluttered up with things (a nest, two candles, a box of matches, some receipts) to take down to the Studio.
Over the past year I have become increasingly uncomfortable about how we talk about the seasons to the point that I feel I need to say something.⁠⠀
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I'm particularly uncomfortable about how we talk about using the seasons as a life guide.  I can understand why this has happened - it is great, easily understood marketing, it is a ready built structure, I'm sure it helps the people who are desperately in need of rules and timetables at the moment.⁠⠀
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But it is rooted in a very particular idea of what seasons look like - particularly the 4 defined seasons of the UK, Europe and North America;⁠⠀
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Which would be fine if people were talking about their local area, the view from their window.  But that doesn't seem to be the case - this seasonal structure is built up into a programme to follow, the language is very much that 'this is the correct way to think about life'.⁠⠀
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But, if you are saying that the dormant season is the time to rest and recuperate, what does that say about countries where the seasons don't look like that.  Is there to be no rest? Is everyone to adopt the seasons in the UK as the 'correct' version? ⁠⠀
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Language matters, because language is where our assumptions lie.⁠⠀
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⁠The photo is of a rose hip - rose hips are the only berries left in the hedges now.  I used to think that it was because they tasted spiky that the birds left them till there were no other options but recently I found that they have the least calories.  The ivy, rowan and hawthorns produce the Kendal mint cake of berries - perfect for seeing the birds through the cold - so get eaten first.⁠⠀
There is a lot of talk at the moment about what 'seasonal flowers' means - the wonderful @wolveslaneflowercompany have been addressing the issue and they have a great story thread exploring the issue saved in their highlights.⁠⠀
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It was a thing that used to bother me a lot when I grew flowers because I only ever sold flowers that grew here, that was the whole point of the business - and in Scotland seasons are very late. I spent a lot of time explaining to brides that not everything is available at every time of the year. ⁠⠀
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I didn't ever have cut flowers until April.  I missed both Valentines and Mother's Day. ⁠⠀
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This is what I have as flowers in my home through January and February - glamorous, long lasting, amaryllis bulbs are on every surface. ⁠⠀
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Elsewhere cut hazel twigs in jam jars are taking over the windowsills. next week I may add in some snowdrops.
Yesterday I sent out a newsletter about extractivism - about the human tendency to push and exploit and keep extracting until we end up with a husk.⁠⠀
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It was sparked by conversations I had after the Oxford Real Farming Conference and a realisation that there is a thread that ties colonialism, industrial farming, privatisation of services and the way we often treat ourselves.⁠⠀
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I've been having such interesting conversations with the people who replied.⁠⠀
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I resend my newsletters to new subscribers on Sundays so if you want to sign up you can click through my profile to the website front page.⁠⠀
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We have been frozen here for a while - the top inch of ground thawed yesterday, but under that was rock hard.  Most of the garden is a low flood of slush floating on ice.⁠⠀
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The hardy annual plants I sowed in late September and transplanted in October are currently under snow but looking pretty terminal.  The temperature in the polytunnel went down to -6 last week and the salad crops turned to mush.⁠⠀
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Were I remotely self sufficient it would be proving a hard winter.⁠⠀
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But I'm not, so I just add more plants to my sowing plan - sowing seeds is my favourite thing - and admire the beauty of the hoar frost, and feel happy that I have food in the store cupboard and logs in the woodpile and a big pile of books by me.
'See a pin and pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck'.⁠⠀
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I have been embroidering a tiny run of linen needle/pin cases to go into the shop tomorrow - and I have embroidered this rhyme inside them - a reminder of the time when pins were made by hand and were to be treasured and looked after. ⁠⠀
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It gives a new appreciation to the term 'pin money' too - the modern kinds of pins, shiny in their plastic box that have made us assume that the term meant a small amount, left over change for fripperies. ⁠⠀
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In reality it was used as an alternative name for a household allowance - the amount of which was often laid out in the marriage contract - and was the money that a woman had complete legal control over. If it was unpaid a woman could sue her husband or his estate for back pay.
Allium Chistophii are rolling around under the espalier apple trees in the vegetable patch. ⠀
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I always hope for a little light self seeding as they go. ⠀
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Now they are like glittery tumbleweeds in the frost. ⠀
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In truth we bought the airstream to avoid a divorce.⁠⠀
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We bought it on Ebay late at night after sharing a bottle of wine.⁠⠀
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At the time I was running a business from the house - from a house that was about half the size it is now, a jumble of tiny rooms, painted plywood floors, two small children and a high level of sticky chaos.⁠⠀
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I am not a tidy enough person to run a business in a home - even had it been a well run home with storage space - and those years were not remotely well run.  My invoices always had cereal stuck to them, my sewing machine was parked at the end of the dining table, 90% of my working time seemed to be spent looking for something that I was sure had been left 'just there'.⁠⠀
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So we looked for something that we could afford so I could move the business out of the house - we priced up a chalet style home office from B & Q - and then, on Ebay, we saw the airstream, badly damaged, vandalised, forlorn.  It came in cheaper than the shoffice . . . .⁠⠀
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For a few years - before I built the Studio - this was my workspace and since then it has become a storage area and been sadly neglected while I tried to save the money to repair the damaged back window and the sagging floor.⁠⠀
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This weekend we began clearing out all the fabric that was stored in it so that the renovation can begin.  I am very excited.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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