Still crazy after fourteen years


Pre-blog, my garden practice gets lost in the fog of history. I know I started gardening seriously in 1999, when we bought property, but I am not quite sure exactly what I was doing month by month until 2005, when I started documenting it with a blog. And that’s the only reason I started; it wasn’t to rant, exactly, though that came naturally early on. It was to keep track of what I was doing.

Now, I don’t much care about keeping track, but I was wondering when I started bulb forcing en masse, which has been my normal fall gardening activity for some time. I see an ebay “you won!” email for a vintage forcing glass from 2003, so it must have been at least since then. After about ten glasses froze, I stopped putting those in the root cellar, instead just pulling bulbs from soil and transferring them to the glasses when the time was right.

I know that not too many gardeners bother with any of this; many find the bulb-chilling period too onerous, and, I am sure, think the whole process is wasteful, as forced bulbs are considerably weakened for future planting (though it’s possible). But I get enough out of it to make up for all that, including winter gardening fun, holiday gifts, and—most recently—the pleasure of being called crazy by the very bulb-sellers who are taking my money. That (above) was one of my last notes from Scott Kunst, the former CEO and founder of Old House Gardens, and if anything could have confirmed my determination to continue my mad quest to make hundreds of flowers grow inside from December through March, that note was it.

Thanks, Scott! As of now I have 175 hyacinths and tulips in the root cellar, and plan to add the rest to the unheated attic (which I find works just as well) in the coming weeks. It’s a mild sort of madness—these days, it helps keep me sane.

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Elizabeth Licata

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. My October gardening column for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (see was an interview with Shane Smith, director of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens and how he forces bulbs. He pots them up and then digs a 2-foot deep trench in his vegetable garden, puts the pots in and mulches with straw or pine needles. I’ll find out this spring if it works for me.

  2. Elizabeth, I still thank you every year when I make my bulb purchases. You’re the one who taught me to force hyacinths. It makes the winter so much shorter.~~Dee

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