Photographer Maria Robledo emailed me this picture of a winter crocus taken with her i-Phone, with the message: “Needs nothing but light to illuminate us.”
She was given crocus bulbs bought from the local farmer’s market as a house-warming present. She had only to place one root-side down in a bowl and expose it to light to awaken the flower within.
Several kinds of bulbs hold the potential to valiantly bloom in winter; the easiest are those that do not need a period of cold before exposure to sun. These include crocuses, hyacinths, paperwhites and daffodils. Here’s the simple method from Ed Hume Seeds:
“Pebbles and water…is one of the easiest ways to force bulbs. Simply take a waterproof bowl, fill it with gravel or decorative stone. White rock is often used because its bright white makes a nice contrast with the bulbs and flowers. Firm the base of the bulbs into the pebbles, until they stand firmly on their own. Next fill water up to the base of the bulbs, but not high enough that it touches them. A plain glass bowl is best to use because you can see the water level, plus you can also watch the roots as they develop. (You want the roots to grow into the water, but you don’t want the bulb to sit in the water.) It’s that easy. The bulbs will flower better and the stems will usually be a little stronger if the bulbs are put into a dark spot for about four to six week before they are brought out into the warm temperatures and forced into bloom. This is a great way to force Hyacinths, Crocus, Daffodils or early Tulips.”
If you don’t have pebbles, you can get away with marbles, stainless steel bolts or even little balls of foil. (And often, these aren’t even necessary – witness Maria’s crocus.) And you can use any compelling vessel to hold one bulb or several, from a bowl to a glass.
Ed Hume Seeds also gives instructions for forcing bulbs in water or in pots of dirt. They make wonderful holiday and house-warming gifts (a good deal cheaper than they would cost to buy at a florist).