Bulbs for Forcing Indoors
I am faced with my usual dilemma over Asters (michaelmas daisies). Have I got room for them and are they worth waiting nine months of the year for and if so what should I plant with them ? It’s a huge family and this is probably Aster amellus ‘King George’. I spotted it last week in a deep herbaceous border planted close to claret-coloured penstemons and a group of blue Salvia ulignosa. The problem is that asters need to be planted in quite large numbers for impact and whatever one chooses to put them with also needs to be a substantial clump. My garden isn’t big enough to have borders looking great every season so I tend to focus on spring and summer for maximum impact. Still it’s good to enjoy asters in other people’s gardens and I think I have identified why I don’t have them here.
For a succession of scented in-door flowers Paper White Narcissus bulbs can be planted in bulb fibre in pots every two weeks till mid-December. They require light and should be placed on a sunny windowsill as soon as planted and very soon the green shoots will appear.
Hyacinths are another fragrant bulb that if planted now will flower through the winter. Plant in groups of three, five or seven, depending on the size of your pots, in moistened bulb fibre. Space them so that they are not quite touching and with the tops just showing through the compost. These need to be kept in the dark for about eight weeks until the new shoots are about 4-5cms. A closed cupboard in an unheated room is ideal. Keep the compost just moist by carefully watering between the bulbs. As soon as the emerging flower buds show bring them into daylight but not strong sunlight. They need to be in the dark up till this point to avoid rapid growth of the leaves which will obscure the flowers. Once exposed to the light the leaves will start to turn a natural green colour and grow at a rate to enhance rather than smother the flowers.
My fork and spade got completely fouled up last week when I emptied a compost bin onto the asparagus bed in the rain. So I brought them home and washed them in warm soapy water. As soon as they were dry I rubbed linseed oil into the wood and brought them back to life.