My husband says that my best quality (there are lots of bad ones) is my ability to change my mind.

For example, I have long had a fairly inflexible anti-houseplant policy.  If I couldn't use it to season a pasta dish, I did not want the damned thing cluttering up my windowsills.  When it comes to indoor ornamentals, I am a serial composter.

But despite myself, I've found myself listening to my Garden Rant partner Elizabeth Licata, who gardens five hours west of me, but in a place with a similar climatic psychology, where the deep depression of a five-month winter gives way to a growing season so short and intense, it feels like being shot out of a cannon.

Elizabeth's point of view is simple and sensible: It's nice to have blooms in the house in winter.

So, I've been making a bit more effort towards such a goal.

This year, I am apparently succeeding (!) in forcing leftover 'Purple Prince' tulips.  Van Engelen sells them cheaply a hundred at a time, but the yard didn't need quite that many last fall.  And I have discovered that the stairway between my basement door and the Bilco doors on the terrace makes a pretty good root cellar.  So I potted up the tulips in November, let them sit for ten weeks–and again, I appear to be succeeding (!) with this project.

I've always made a bit of an exception to the no-houseplants rule for amaryllis.  I'd buy them cheap at Lowe's and then chuck them after they bloomed, having tried as a young gardener to get them to rebloom and having failed.  Inspired by Elizabeth, however, I made a bit more of an effort last summer, treated my potted amaryllis decently, took them out of their pots in early September as their leaves started dying back, cut off the leaves, and let the bulbs rest for six weeks or so in the basement before potting them up again in a shovelful of compost and putting them in a windowsill. 

They instantly sent up four glorious strap-like leaves apiece–and no flower stalks.  Just the thing to keep me an indoor plant cynic.

And yet…


Look what just appeared.  I guess the lesson is, always keep an open mind in gardening, if not in politics or literature.


  1. That Elizabeth…changing the world one gardener at a time. Is it my imagination or are the Garden Ranters all rubbing off on one another? First Susan’s growing edibles and now Michele’s forcing bulbs? What’s next?

  2. I have been doing the same thing with amaryllis – throwing them out! They were beautiful over the holidays, now I feel as if I killed them prematurally!

  3. I feel like plants know when you are about to dump them… my friend Carla has had a rose that didn’t bloom well for years – the year she decided to replace it it went crazy with beautiful blossoms! Your amaryllis knows!

  4. People, people, you can’t throw out precious Amaryllis bulbs. You’re breaking my heart! Send your used ones to your friends in warmer climes, who can just plop ’em in the garden and forget about them until they bloom spectacularly…

  5. The blooms from the Purple Prince tulip will probably be scrappy and a waste of time.
    I’m not yet a hoarder of a good amaryllis bulb. They’re worth the effort unless you’re into the common red forms sold as cuts or as a one shot 5 buck bulb fling in the pretty box.

  6. Heather, how right you are! Though I haven’t yielded to possible GR pressure to grow houseplants yet, and doubt I ever will. This may be heresy but to me, they’re just “greenery”.

  7. Greenery is not always bad, it can have texture, substance and color too. Living in a warm climate, where I can garden year round,I have few houseplants but I much prefer watering and puttering around them rather than dusting the doo dads.

  8. Now you’ve got me rethinking! I always start something, like bringing inside some scented geranium cuttings, then the cat gets them…what’s that saying: don’t start something you can’t finish. So it’s either the plants or the cat. I will keep an open mind. Thanks for the great post!

  9. I have 4 Amarylis bulbs that date from the early 90’s. They have multiplied over the years, so now I have dozens, as much as 12 in one pot. They spend the year near windows with western exposure, and I water them 3 times a month with a little fertilizer. And they bloom every year. Even the 1991 bulb.

  10. Forcing tulips brings out the child in all of us. we get to wonder at the marvel of a single bulb turning into an exquisite work of art without all the distractions of a spring garden.

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