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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 bees aren’t enjoying this cold damp weather any more than I am. 
I keep finding them clinging to the leeward side of flowers - especially the big bulks of globe thistles, teasels and sea holly. 
They look like they are clinging on desperately to the rigging as the plants are buffeted about in the wind. 
What are you up to this weekend?
This is one of the photographs from a new course that I am writing at the moment about growing your own annual cut flowers.⁠⠀
It is a course based on my practical experience of growing flowers in a fairly tough climate, up a hill in the middle of Scotland.⁠⠀
It will be my first course written exclusively for members of Snapdragon Studio - membership costs £10 a month at the moment but for people joining after 18th September it will be £15 a month. ⁠⠀
The price increase is to reflect all the extra things that you get now in comparison to when I first launched the membership - I have been adding in exclusive e-courses, a hard copy magazine, a private community where you can ask advice and share expertise.⁠⠀
I am freezing the cost of membership for everyone who joins up by 17th September at £10 a month until the beginning of 2021 as a thank you for supporting me and allowing me the space to develop the membership.⁠⠀
⁠⠀
If you want to join us - and it is a very good time to join as there are embroidered badges in the Welcome pack - you can find out more by clicking through my profile.
Are you a city break person or a lover of the open road? 
And what do you think of caravans? Are they a symbol of adventure or something slow moving you get stuck behind on the motorway? 
This mug, printed with my watercolours of vintage caravans (including my own, very stationary airstream) probably shows my own allegiances.  It is now up on the website, click through my profile to find it.
I am currently embracing the frou frou fun of dahlias - in much the same way as I do my Staffordshire cow with its tiny milk maid. 
I may even have found a dinner plate dahlia I like - indeed love. 
Fairway spur - pretty much the colour of Heinz tomato soup - it has a beautiful bursting out shape and longish stems. 
By longish I mean about a foot between flower and next big bud. Perfect to put on its own in a stoneware bottle. 
By a cow. In my office.
Did you all survive the weathery weather? 
One of my jobs today or tomorrow is to go and see if I can rescue the sweet peas. 
A couple of weeks ago they reached the top of the tunnels that divide the beds - 10 feet tall, way beyond my reach for tying in and I was relying on their tendrils keeping them up there. 
That worked for a while - but the winds over the weekend got under the sheets of flowers and whisked them off the grid. 
Fortunately I had picked some before they fell - a windowsill of candy colours.
Yesterday I took a duvet day. My first ever I think. 
I woke and I thought of all the things I had to do- Re-write a blogpost, write & send a newsletter, edit photos & write instructions for the Studio Box.
Then I rolled over and went back to sleep. 
I had a long bath, I took a nap, I went hunting antiques - I did no work. 
I have never done this before - I mean I’m a great bunker off, I truanted right through my 5th and 6th year at school - but it was productive truanting with a bag of history books and an essay on the go. 
I’d love to say it felt like self care and that I am full of energy today but sadly that isn’t the case! 
Maybe I need more practice. 
Are you a taker of duvet days?
‘Be canny with the sugar’

When I was in my final year at school I volunteered with the National Trust for Scotland - helping to put together educational packs which put objects into context. 
I worked on the sugar loaf - a paper wrapped cone of sugar in the kitchen. It was an unpicking of the history of wealthy C18th Edinburgh’s connections to slavery, the abolitionist boycott of cane sugar (the sugar cone was probably from sugar beet), the deathly triangle of slavery that relied on sugar to power it and which built so many of our elegant cities. 
I think of all that when I see this sugar bowl - a personalised sugar bowl for an aristocratic lady, a pretty large sugar bowl. 
And I wonder how much she thought about anybody who made her commodities, or if it was unknown, suspected but easily dismissed .  Or was she a trendy liberal, the feel good boycott, the buying of sugar beet, the washing of hands, the feeling of having done her bit. 
And yet - I type this out on my phone - aware that the chance that modern slavery powers it is high. The children in the Democratic Republic of Congo mining cobalt, others elsewhere mining elements I haven’t even heard of. The deliberate untraceability that Somehow allows us to turn away. 
Our technology, more ubiquitous even than sugar. 
I’m not really sure where I am going with this caption, it was going to be about sweet peas. 
Just probably to say awareness being the start and a googling after facts and ways to change. But only a start. 
The lowest estimate of the extent of modern slavery today is 20 million people.
Pineapple weed ice cream. 
There seems to be two camps in the foraging world at the moment. 
One evolves from back when found foods were an important everyday part of our diets - from wild spring greens to hedgerow brambles - the other from a very high end cheffy chasing of flavour. 
I am usually firmly in the first camp, with my basket of nettles and my billhook, but last week I took a little detour into weird flavour hunting and made Pineapple weed ice cream - from a type of very common wild chamomile that (kind of) tastes of pineapple. 
The recipe is on my blog and is delicious- you can get to it by clicking through my profile. 
What is the weirdest flavour ice cream you’ve ever eaten?
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At Snapdragon we 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.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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