September Is The Month To Plant Bulbs For Christmas
Prepared Hyacinths are probably the most popular Christmas flowering bulb. These have already been treated to bring their natural spring flowering time forward by about 3 months. Good varieties are Pink Pearl, Delft Blue or City of Haarlem, yellow. The lovely vibrant colours and fantastic scent fill the house at this time of year. Bulbs will flower for Christmas if planted from the third week in September to the middle of October. Choose an attractive container, for 3 bulbs it needs to be 15 cms in diameter, and using bulb fibre or a peaty compost half fill the pot. Set the bulbs close together, but not touching each other or the sides of the container, on the fibre or compost. Fill around the bulbs leaving the tops just showing at the surface. Water the pot and then place in a cool dark place. Check after 3 weeks and water if the compost is dry and continue to check and water until the shoots are 3 to 5cms. Then move to a cool light place until the flower starts to show and then to a warm window sill to flower. Hyacinth pots also make lovely presents so finish with a moss topping and coloured ribbon.
It is interesting for children to watch the bulbs grow so planting in a hyacinth glass with just water and using the same technique of dark cool and then light warm conditions they can watch the roots, shoots flowers and leaves all emerge from the bulb. All that’s needed is to keep topping up the water level.
Paper White, Pheasant Eye and Bridal Crown are all good varieties of Narcissus for planting at the end of September. Their natural flowering period is January or February, but good quality bulbs will flower 6 to 10 weeks from planting. They all have a lovely perfume and should be planted as tightly as possible on the surface of the compost in a tall pot to balance the height of the bulbs and with a plant support. Water the pot and put in a cool dark place and keep checking until the shoots appear and then gradually bring into a light warm place to flower. The miniature Narcissus Tete a Tete and Pipit are also delightfully scented and excellent to grow in the same way for flowering indoors. They will probably not be in flower until January but still a joy in the middle of winter.
Large bright yellow Crocus and fragrant Grape Hyacinths also flower in January if grown indoors. Plant the bulbs at the end of October in the same way with a dark cool period of approximately 8 weeks before bringing into a light warm place.
Another very popular gift at Christmas is the easy to grow Amaryllis. It is usually sold in an attractive box containing the pot compost and bulb. Good varieties to look out for are Christmas Star and Picotee both single flowers and Cherry Nymph and Dancing Queen with double flowers. Plant the amaryllis in a container that is 2.5cms larger than the width of the bulb. Leave the top third of the bulb sitting above the soil level. Place the pot in a brightly lit spot on a windowsill and water sparingly until it produces shoots. To encourage the stem to grow straight keep turning the pot towards the light and the soil moist.
Amaryllis should flower six to eight weeks after planting and the flowers will last for ages. To help the blooms stay fresh, move the pot to a slightly cooler but still bright spot once it starts to flower.
With proper care, an amaryllis bulb can go on producing spectacular flowers year after year. All you need to do is feed the bulb with a balanced liquid fertiliser after flowering. As the leaves begin to turn yellow stop watering and allow the bulb to dry. Simply begin watering again next spring to wake the bulb up.
Next month we can look at bulbs for the garden.