Slow and local in winter: I grow them myself


Yes, I’ve seen all the winter bouquets that people are creating with seedpods, evergreen foliage, berries, rose hips, pinecones, interesting twigs and so on. Indeed, one of our good friends, Debra Prinzing, is the queen of this movement.

The winter arrangements that she and others create are beautiful, and inspiring for those that assume shipped-in stuff from far-away commercial greenhouses is the only way you can go in the frigid months. And of course most of us just got a good lesson in what frigid really means. (The lesson people in places like North Dakota have always known.) But I like flowers, and there are no local greenhouses providing them at the consumer level here, though we do have excellent florists and nurseries. So I grow my own.

In the house now, I have about 50 pots of hyacinths, tulips, narcissus, muscari, and amaryllis. A couple of the pots are quite big, with as many as twenty bulbs packed in; that allows me to carefully remove the bulbs and use them roots and all in arrangements that last much longer that way than if I cut off the flower stems. For years, I have been using the less common tazettas, as my husband does not like the fragrance of the widely used Ziva tazetta.

The ones I use from Old House Gardens, Erlicheer (above), are much better looking (they grow in tight bunches), and have a milder fragrance.  You have to stick your nose in to get it (it might help that our thermostat is at 61 most of the time).

When I went down to the root cellar to drag out all the pots I had not given as holiday gifts, I found that they were all—pretty much—frozen. I had waited a week too long; even the insulated root cellar couldn’t stand up to the vortex. But they seem fine—the buds are fat, green, and getting higher. All the water in the hyacinth glasses froze as well, but they too seem OK. The dirt and water froze but the bulbs didn’t. They would have,  given more time, I’m sure.

People don’t force muscari, but this is the second year I’ve done it (thin shoots at top)—works great! The stems will not be as strong as they get outside.  The last flowers to bloom are the parrot tulips; when they’re done, early spring ephemerals are well on their way outdoors.

This is what I do instead of looking at seed catalogs—which is OK, but not enough, not for me.

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Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I have 5 amaryllis at all different stages, some paperwhites that are done, and some about to bloom, and a pot of hyacinths that I bought from the grocery store. I’m getting through so far, but March will be really tough. My kids and I go to see my parents in Florida in February, and it feels like it should be spring when we get back, but it isn’t. And it isn’t spring for a very long time some years.

    I don’t need a whole house full of flowers, but a couple growing really helps. I love the about to burst stage best.

  2. Your bulbs are absolutely fabulous, and what a wonderful bit of color pop to have gracing your home. I live in California, so I’m not sure whether my amaryllis bulbs would benefit from being brought indoors, but I really ought to check. They are a beautiful pink color (more like fuschia maybe?), and are so beautiful when they bloom—but huge! Still, we could use a little color pop in our home, if our cats would leave them alone!

    Have a wonderful day!

  3. I get my winter color from Schlumbergeras, orchids, and various South African bulbs. I got a little crazy this winter with Schlumbergeras. I decided I needed a whole row of them ranging from white on one end, through pale pink, hot pink, coral, true red, scarlet, salmon, orange, and “yellow”. I blame Celia Thaxter.


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