November Gardening 2016

by Jane Ahrens

From Mélie’s Garden


As I write this, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my bulb order from John Scheepers. Every year I order about eight varieties of bulbs to force during the winter. We enjoy them inside in March and April. I plant the hyacinths, muscari and narcissus outside once they are finished blooming to naturalize. The forced tulips don’t last like the other bulbs, but I always pop them into my vegetable garden with the hope they will grow the next year and many times have had pretty tulips to cut the following spring. The hyacinths, muscari and narcissus have continued to grow well outside and usually bloom the first year after being forced.

In choosing tulips to force, I always order the “early spring blooming” varieties in the catalog because they require less cooling time. John Scheepers will often suggest “good forcers” when describing the different bulbs they offer. Each year I order some old favorites and a couple of new ones to try. Over the years, I have had good results with the following:

Tulips – Foxtrot, Montreux and New Design

Narcissus (Daffodils)

  • Miniature Narcissus – Minnow and Tete aTete
  • Standard Narcissus – Flower Record, Falconet, Ice King and Yellow  Cheerfulness
  • Muscari and Hyacinths – almost all varieties are easy to force


  1. Soak Tulips and Hyacinths in a fungicide for five minutes and dry before planting. Narcissus and Muscari do not need this treatment.
  2. Soil – good potting soil mixed with perlite to make the soil light and mix in a bit of charcoal (which can be bought at a pet store) to prevent mold.
  3. Bulb Pots are shallow and 8” to 10” wide – your garden center can direct you to the right ones.
  4. Soak all bulb pots before planting.


  • 8 to 10 hyacinths or daffodils per 8”pot
  • 12 to 15 tulips per 8” pot – always plant with flat edge of the tulip facing the edge of the pot, so the outer leaves of the tulips fold out over the rim of the pot.
  • Muscari are tiny bulbs, so plant as many as you wish in much smaller pots.
  • All the bulbs will be crowded and you can even put some on top of the others as long as the top part of the lower bulbs pokes up between the top ones.


After planting the bulbs, water the pots well and put them in styrofoam coolers surrounded with newspaper. Place the coolers in a shed, garage or basement, where they will be cool, but not freeze.

Invert another pot on top of each pot to keep out mice or cover pots with wire mesh. This is only necessary with Tulips and Hyacinths.

Check the planted pots once per month and if the pots are very dry, water a bit to dampen.

 Weeks of ColdWeeks to Bloom
Crocus15 weeks2 – 3 weeks
Narcissus15 – 17 weeks2 – 3 weeks
Muscari14 – 15 weeks2 – 3 weeks
Hyacinth11 – 14 weeks2 – 3 weeks
Tulip14 – 20 weeks2 – 3 weeks


Once forcing time is over (see weeks of cold above) bring the pots into a warm room, but keep them in the dark until the bulbs start to sprout. Once green shoots appear, place the pots in the sun.

I put three or four pruned apple tree sprouts along the edge of each pot. I then tie raffia between them to form a support for the foliage.

After Care

Remove the bulbs from their pots and plant them outside and add a bit of bone meal to the soil to fertilize them. Tulips should be planted in a fenced in area, away from predators.

Let the foliage die back and the bulbs should comeback up the following year and naturalize after that, however the tulips will only last a year or two if you are lucky.

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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