Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Year, New Look






Chamomile & Peppermint has had a makeover, getting a little more mature perhaps? And what shall 2013 bring? My baby girl is turning one soon; after a year of blissful homelife I will be returning to the big wide world to continue studies so far half completed; I will be turning the dreaded big 30 (although strangely enough I feel no dread...yet); there are things to discover, to make, to share...



What would you like to see more of from Chamomile & Peppermint in 2013?


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Growing bulbs indoors



I received the latest Garden Express catalogue in the mail the other, reminding me that it is time to plant spring bulbs again this year. It also reminded me of a post from 2 years ago about growing bulbs indoors in vases which just look gorgeous! Garden Express has pretty good deals on bulbs to be ordered over the net if you live in Australia.


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For some reason this morning I thought about these little hyacinth vases we used to sell years ago when I worked in a plant nursery where you could grow hyacinths inside over water. With the beautiful power of google, I came accross this article by Tesselaar's about "bulb forcing" or growing bulbs at the wrong time of year and under certain conditions to keep in the house. It turns out some people are really into this and have pages and blogs dedicated to their collections of bulb/hyacinth vases and methods they use. Co-incidentally, the ideal time for starting a project like this in Australia is right now, the 1st of Feb according to Tesselaar's or shortly after. I think I might give this one a go...





Successful bulb `forcing`


There`s no doubt that bulb flowers are one of the greatest joys of Spring but it`s quite possible that Spring flowers are even more greatly appreciated when they appear ahead of schedule in Winter. They bring loads of colour and cheer to an otherwise cold Winter day. It`s the best antidote for the Winter doldrums that we`ve ever found. And it`s a lot of fun too! The process by which bulbs are brought into flower early, is called “forcing“ and, despite the name the process is actually gentle, easy and very rewarding.
Many types of bulbs can be `forced` into early flower and some of our favourite choices include: Tulips
Hyacinths
Crocus
Daffodils (the dwarf varieties are far better than the taller ones)
fragrant Paperwhite `Jonquils` Grape Hyacinths
Spring Star flowers
Snow drops (Leucojum)
Blue bells and
fragrant Hyacinths (especially the vigorous blue & pink varieties).



Method:

  1. Potting:

    The bulbs should be planted as soon as possible after the first of February. The longer that you delay planting, the less early the flowers will be `forced` into appearing. However, do not start the process any earlier than February 1st because the flower buds may not have properly formed prior to this date.
    Use a shallow dish, pot, tray or bowl which is about least 10 - 12cm deep with good drainage holes. Part fill the pot with potting mix, add fertiliser and place the bulbs on top of the mix so that their tips are level with, or just above, the brim of the pot. The bulbs should be planted as closely as `shoulder to shoulder` for an effective result.
    Firm the soil around the bulbs and water well.
    Hint: Watering will be a lot easier if you leave a 1/2 cm gap between the top of the potting mix and the brim of the pot. This stops the potting mix from being washed out of the pot each time you water.
  2. Keep the pots dark & cool for 8-10 weeks:


    Once potted, the bulbs need to be kept in a cool and dark spot for 8-10 weeks. Ideally temperatures should be between 1 and 7 degrees C. (This provides bulbs with the Winter “chill“ they would experience in their natural habitat). There are several ways in which you can supply this environment. You can:
    • dig the whole pot into a cool, shady part of the garden & cover it completely with 2-3cm of soil 
    • Cover with thick layers of newspaper (to keep out the light) and leave the pot in a cool and dark place inside the house, in the cellar, in an unheated & cold garage or under the house. It is critical that the spot you choose is cool so that the flower buds have a chance to fully develop. 
    • Place the whole pot into the fridge for 8-10 weeks. If you have a frost-free fridge, it will be necessary to put the pot in a plastic bag (or cover with cling wrap) and make a few slits in the top of this cover. This allows some of the humidity to be maintained.
      Every couple of weeks, check that the soil is still slightly moist. 

  3. Growing up:


    You`ll know when the bulbs are ready to leave their “Wintery“ spot because the small white roots will have started to fill the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot and the top shoots will have grown to about 10cm tall.
    At this time remove the newspaper (or, if planted outdoors, unearth the pots) and gradually move the pot into a bright and warm spot where you can enjoy their blooms. This move has to be done gradually over a couple of days to give the bulbs a chance to gently acclimatise. Note: By moving the bulbs to a lighter, warmer spot you are tricking them into believing that it is Spring and time to grow and flower.
    Hint: Turn the pot regularly to avoid the display from becoming one-sided.
    The pots can also be enjoyed outside but again, remember to gradually move them into a sunny spot.
    Water sparingly at first and then more freely as the bulbs come into full flower (which will take another 2 to 4 weeks). Fertilise lightly with a liquid fertiliser each time you water. 
  4. Flowering and beyond:


    To get the longest possible period of enjoyment from your flowers, keep the pots out of direct sun light and, if possible, remove them to outside overnight.
    Given the stress of this process on a bulb, it`s unlikely that `forced` bulbs will produce flowers in the following year so discard them and start afresh next year. 

Trouble-shooting:


There are only four main reasons why forced bulbs fail. If you understand each of these, there`s no reason why you can`t enjoy great success.
  1. Poor storage conditions:


    If the cool spot you choose to store your bulbs in is too warm, the flower bud will be `cooked` and your bulbs will not flower. Ideally, the cold storage temperature should not go above 7.5 degrees C or below freezing.
  2. Drought:


    The soil in which your bulbs sit should always be kept slightly moist. If the soil is allowed to dry out completely the roots and/or flower bud production may be adversely effected. However, the soil should not be left soggy either since this may cause the bulbs to rot.
  3. `Climate change shock`:


    If you move the bulbs too quickly from cold storage to a hot, dry house, the shock maybe too much and result in stunted growth, shrivelled flower buds and withered or discoloured foliage. Ensure that you move the bulbs gradually into a warm and light position.
  4. Too much shade:


    If the pots are not given sufficient light in which to grow and flower, their stems and leaves will stretch and become pale, floppy and unable to support the flowers. 

Bulbs can also be grown very effectively on bowls of gravel:


One of our favourite ways of forcing bulbs is by growing the miniature Daffodil Tete-a-Tete on bowls of gravel. It looks sensational! All we do is get a shallow bowl (without holes) and fill with attractive smooth white gravel and sit the bulbs on top. We then fill the bowl with water so that the top of the water sits just below the base of the bulbs. We then keep the pot in a cool spot (just under the verandah or in the bathroom) until the flowers come into full bloom. It`s just so easy with the mini Daffodils but so effective.
Note: The bulbs need to be discarded after flowering since they`ve exhausted themselves for this process.