Who the hell knows what kind of winter we’ll be having in this formerly snow-identified corner of New York, but there will certainly be a few months of dormancy. This is what bulb season is for. It’s the closest I can get to real gardening (other than houseplant maintenance) during the cold months. In this scenario, I turn fall into sort of a bogus spring planting season, ordering hundreds of bulbs that will either a., go into the ground, b., go into big pots, c., go into vases for root cellar forcing, d. go into vases for indoor growing. I can easily get through close to 1000 bulbs this way—and it would be almost twice as many if I had a big space to fill up with crocuses. (It’s really lucky for our fiscal health that I don’t.)
Bulb forcing is not something you hear much about in current gardening practice. I understand why—I suppose to many it seems fussy, old-fashioned, and maybe wasteful, as forced bulbs have limited reuse potential. Tazettas can’t be reused at all, and hyacinths will usually need a year to recover before they can grow in the ground after forcing. I know many who buy previously forced daffodils and tulips from the local botanical gardens; I don’t know how they do with them.
Nonetheless, I have been trying to get the word out about alternative ways to use bulbs. This month, I have articles in Leaf (click to read the fall issue of this digital mag) on hyacinth and tazetta forcing and in Fine Gardening (11/12 issue, which will be on stands this week) on growing tulips in big pots, which isn’t forcing but does help avoid some of the pitfalls of in-ground planting.
You may remember there was a silly promotional campaign for bulbs a few months back. I didn’t like the campaign, but I rabidly endorse its basic premise. Bulbs are cool. People should use them more.
P.S. Leaf is a much cooler mag than my little bulb how-to might lead you to believe. Be sure to browse the whole thing and don’t miss the article on corn whisky.