Diarmuid Gavin: Plant spring bulbs indoors now for chic Christmas centrepieces

Garden centres and nurseries are packed with spring bulbs at the moment – most of them looking forward to being popped in the ground so they’ll produce a super display in the early months of next year. But in these darkening days of 2020, there’s a more instant project you can undertake to grow some bulbs indoors.

efore the mad rush starts for Christmas, you can get one step ahead creating something that could be a beautiful centrepiece in your home on Christmas Day. It’s also fun to do with children who will be fascinated with the life cycle of bulbs. It neatly explains what is happening in the ground over winter and helps them anticipate the spring garden display. And the best bulbs to use? Paperwhite daffodils.

Paperwhite daffodils

Paperwhite daffodils, or Narcissus tazetta, are beautiful and fragrant daffodils. They make great indoor plants and are so easy to grow. Unlike other forced bulbs, they don’t required periods of darkness or chilling – all they need is water to kick-start them into growth.

Each bulb will produce stems that bear clusters of small white or yellow scented flowers. They’re quick, too – plant them now and they will be flowering in around six to eight weeks. This makes them ideal as Christmas gifts and if you do another batch in about a fortnight’s time, you will have more blossoms to brighten up your house in January and fill it with perfume stronger than a scented candle.

The simplicity of these bulbs is that they will grow planted in gravel, decorative stone, glass pebbles or you can use bulb fibre or even regular compost. It’s also possible to grow them in forcing glasses as you would with hyacinths. They don’t require food as they already contain all the nutrients and energy they require. All they need to grow is some water and light.

You can get creative with glass containers and do alternating bands of different coloured sands or gravel and watch as the roots develop. Taller vases are particularly good as they will provide support for the developing stems which can get a bit floppy and fall over. You can also use little bamboo sticks as support if this happens. A drop of gin or vodka in the water is also said to be a good method of preventing them falling over. They will look equally good in terracotta pots which can be made festive with a touch of red ribbon or gold-spray stencilling.

Step by step how to plant in a glass container

1. Provide a couple of inches of soil/gravel to sit bulbs with their tips facing upwards. Wearing gloves as daffodils bulbs can irritate the skin, pack the bulbs in fairly closely, almost touching. Some varieties to look out for include ‘Ziva’, which are pure white, or if you prefer something more colourful, ‘Grand Soleil D’Or’ has egg-yolk yellow and orange flowers.

2. Fill around the gaps with gravel and just leave the tops of the tip showing.

3. Add enough water so the roots are just touching it. Don’t overfill as you don’t want the bulb to rot.

4. Place on a windowsill and keep an eye on water levels so they don’t dry out. Turning the pot occasionally will keep development of all bulbs even.

5. Growth will slow down or speed up depending on heat levels. When they start to flower, positioning in a cooler space will ensure blossoms last longer.

When the bulbs have finished flowering, they’ll be exhausted so you either add them to the compost heap or plant them in your garden. If you do plant them out, make sure they’re in rich soil and add a slow-release fertiliser so their spent energy can be replenished. Hopefully they’ll pop up again the following year!

Irish Independent

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