GARDENING

Gardening with James Vaughan: Christmas Flower Bulbs

James Vaughan

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James Vaughan

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Gardening with James Vaughan: Christmas Flower Bulbs

Amaryllis

I know some readers may raise their eyes to Heaven when they see that this week’s article revolves around Christmas. This is, however, with good reason. Some Christmas flowering bulbs will need to be planted at least six weeks before Christmas. If you have a moment over the next couple of days, try and plant some Christmas flowering bulbs - if not for yourself then as gifts for loved ones.
If you have not already got some, I would suggest you buy some terracotta pots. These are ideal for planting bulbs into. Because the pots are made out of organic material they are porous. This means that water evaporates through the sides of these pots. Therefore, terracotta pots make the compost more free-draining. This is important when planting bulbs. Probably the biggest reason for indoor flower bulb failure is rotting due to over-watering.

Care
As mentioned in last week’s article, you need to purchase ‘prepared’ bulbs if you wish for them to flower for Christmas. These cost a little more than regular or unprepared bulbs but they are worth it. If you wish you can also buy some ‘bulb compost’ though I rarely do. You can plant bulbs indoors in pots as close as you wish but ensure the bulbs are not touching. First, half fill the pots with compost. Then place the bulbs on top of this compost. Push them into the compost to ensure there are no air pockets beneath the bulbs. Then top up the pot with compost so that the bulbs are just about covered. Finally, ensure that the pots are given plenty of water. Place the pot of bulbs in an area of natural light- a windowsill would be perfect. Continue to top the pots up with water over the coming weeks.
Once the flowers have finished keep watering but reduce the amount of water. Eventually the leaves will start to wilt. After a few months all the leaves should have wilted. Once this has occurred it is safe the lift the bulbs. The bulbs can be removed from the pots and stored, ready for planting in time for next Christmas.

Hyacinth
Hyacinths, as well as provide great blooms, are scented. Just three hyacinth bulbs in a pot will provide enough scent to fill a room. They are available in a variety of colours.

Paper White Narcissus
Those of you that have grown paper whites before will know of their ‘unique’ scent. It is a scent best described as not pleasant. However, the scent does not travel and the flowers are long-lasting. There is another type of Narcissus that can be grown to flower for Christmas. These are more like your usual looking Narcissus. They look, basically, like small daffodil flowers. A variety you might see for sale are Soleil d’Or. These are really nice looking with the added benefit of a pleasant scent.

Amaryllis
Really, these are the giants of the indoor flowering bulbs. I have grown these in the past that grew flowers ten inches (twenty centimeters) across. One bulb will typically have one or two flower stems. Each flower stem will typically give you four flowers.