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Bring Spring Flowers and Bulbs into Your Home

Notes from the Old Ottawa South Garden Club

The last meeting in 2016 of the Old Ottawa South Garden Club (OOSGC) featured a presentation to inspire people to prepare bulbs and bring spring flowers into their homes. Jill Hopkins, a club member who operates Clovellys Interior & Garden Design, has been a serious gardener for 25 years and shared her passion and techniques for forcing bulbs.
Each fall Jill purchases a variety of bulbs in anticipation of blooms at Christmas time as well as blooms in the early April to herald the arrival of spring and summer. Jill noted that bulbs should be large and firm, and then kept in paper bags in a darkened area until needed. For the early spring blooms, there should be a cool storage space. Ideally, this could be an unheated attached garage, cold cellar or dedicated refrigerator. Unglazed clay pots are the best containers and Jill recommends bulb pans that are wide and shallow.
Starting in late January, the bulb pans are filled with soil and the bulbs arranged so that they are close but not touching. The bulbs are pressed into the soil and then sprinkled with more soil. The container is covered with a heavy clay saucer and left in the cool storage area. Once in February, the bulbs should be watered and allowed to drain, then covered and stored again. At the start of April, the bulbs are ready to emerge and can be brought out into the light. In just a few days, the plants begin to bud and then bloom. Accompanying photos show how quickly the blooms burst forth. Forcing short-stemmed flowers, such as grape hyacinth (Muscari), Tulipa tarda and snowdrops, can be especially successful.
When growing daffodils, Jill likes to repot some daffodils into pots that are placed in outside urns. She finds that they last especially well outdoors. Even if they get coated in ice, the daffodils will recover and continue blooming.
Jill also spoke about some ways to combine a variety of forced bulbs and boughs of flowering shrubs. For example, boughs of forsythia can be displayed with daffodils. Pussy willows can be combined with early flowering bulbs. Another technique that produces beautiful results involves placing paper whites in white gravel or stones and then moistening them. Fragrant flowers will soon follow.
November is the time when amaryllis bulbs can be started indoors for their showy flowers at Christmas. It is also when allium bulbs can be planted outdoors in anticipation of their dramatic blooms for several weeks in late spring and early summer.
After being forced, bulbs will not rebloom soon. Many can be placed in the garden, and within a few years will begin to bloom on their own.
Also part of the evening was a sale and silent auction of floral materials and bouquets. Another club member, Diana Carr, along with her sister organized this event. Both have studied at the Jane Packer School in London, England and now operate a business as the Flower Girls (see www.2flowergirls.com). Several beautiful arrangements were available with a portion of the funds raised going toward future activities of the club.
At the next meeting of the OOSGC, on Monday, January 9, 2017, Master Gardener Mary Ann Van Berlo will present a virtual tour of some of the gardens and other features of the Lake District and the Scottish Borders. People are also encouraged to bring garden related tools and books for a fund-raising sale. 
Marilyn Whitaker grew up in Old Ottawa South. Currently she operates Oasescapes.