Steve's tips for forcing bulbs

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There’s nothing like the heady scent of hyacinths at Christmas, however, time is of the essence to ensure they’re prepared in time.

Firstly you must ensure you buy ‘prepared’ bulbs. These have been pre-chilled during summer at sub-zero temperatures deceiving the bulbs into thinking they have already experienced a full winter and are ready to then flower. At Glyndebourne we normally do batches of ten so we have a number of hyacinths flowering together for effect.

In early October prepare your bulbs by filling a 4 inch pot 3/4 full with a half and half mixture of John Innes and peat-free multi-purpose compost. Place the bulb on top so that it is just damp. Do not water again until they are removed from their box, then just keep damp with water once or twice a week (see further on). Place in a cardboard or wooden box twice the depth of the pots. Then fill box with compost, leaf mould or any available soil to top to cut out any light.Put a piece of wood across the box to keep out any unwelcome visitors such as mice. Store in a cool place such as a shed, cold frame or unheated greenhouse until the first week of december ensuring there is obvious growth of one or two inches. If there isn’t return them to the box.

Take the pots out of the box and position in a heated greenhouse or on a warm window ledge. They should then begin to flower within three to four weeks providing beautiful scented blooms for Christmas.”