Small space gardening

Everything you need to know to plant in containers, leverage vertical gardens, and more

The gentle art of forcing bulbs

Coax spring bulbs to flower indoors during winter

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Daffodil bulbs need chilling for 16 weeks; bloom follows two or three weeks later. Try the strong-growing 'Salome' (pale yellow segments, apricot pink cup), the diminutive 'Tête à Tête' (all yellow), or 'Mount Hood' (all white).

Tulip bulbs need chilling for 14 to 20 weeks; bloom follows about three weeks later. Choices range from low-growing species tulips to tall hybrids. Two of our favorites for forcing are red T. greigii (try 'Orange Toronto') and T. kaufmanniana, whose water lily-shaped flowers come in yellow or red ('Showwinner' is a superior red). Each holds its flowers about a foot high.

Forcing tips

CHILLING. To chill bulbs in the refrigerator, just store them in a mesh or paper bag in the crisper section until they're ready to be forced. Throughout much of the West (except mild-winter parts of Arizona and Southern California), you can chill bulbs after planting simply by putting the pots outdoors. In very cold regions, place them in your garage, greenhouse, or coldframe; in milder places, you can put them in a cool, bright part of the garden. Bulbs will root and sprout during chilling.

CONTAINERS. Shop for containers and special forcing jars and vases at garden centers and through mail-order catalogs. Tall glass vessels, like the hurricane-lamp chimney holding the freesias pictured at far left, do a good job of supporting spindly or extratall flower stems; you can also buy wire supports that keep stalks from leaning.

PLANTING. Most bulbs and corms can be put into containers almost shoulder-to-shoulder--certainly not more than 1 inch apart. Plant so that most of the bulb is buried, with just the tip poking above the potting medium. The level of the soil or sand should start out an inch below the container rim. As the bulbs start to grow, they'll push the soil or sand up and you'll be glad you allowed for that expansion. If you grow bulbs in soil, fertilize once with half-strength liquid fertilizer as soon as you bring them indoors.


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