How Does A Gardener Get Through Winter?

If you are a gardener living in a tropical paradise, you “don’t” get through winter–you just keep on gardening.

And while I have always said that I welcome the break from “true” outdoor gardening that 4 seasons bring, I find myself doing certain things to “get through” the cold and dark days up here in the frozen north of New England.

One of the most important things that I do is force bulbs. And I don’t just force the tender bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus (although I do that too–I’ll have separate posts on those!)

I force bulbs that the rest of us grow outside in the ground here in New England. In fact, this year, I bought so many that I did plant my extras outside so I got the best of both worlds. I have bulbs for forcing inside and I’ll have bulbs coming up outside in my landscape in the spring. That’s what’s known as a bonus!


Specifically, I always force hyacinth. I’ve been doing this so long I have a nice collection of these forcing jars (or forcing vases, they’re sometimes called). You can often buy them with a bulb already started but I don’t think that’s how I got them. I seem to recall getting these–or most of them–from gardening catalogs. They don’t seem to sell just the vases online too readily anymore.

My preferred colors are purple and white and that’s an easy mix to find.


Last year, when I was cleaning up my potting room, I also found these great little forcing vases. I have snowdrops in them.


And this year, again when I was cleaning up, I found these little forcing vases. I am forcing crocuses here. I also planted some crocuses in a small flower pot. Because they’re corms, they have these odd little protrusions on them. Originally, I had tried them in the same jars with the snowdrops but they were too big. So finding these other vases was great. My crocus mix is also purple and white.

I have about 20 of each of the bulbs so I have lots to force when these finish. I am keeping them in a cool place so they’ll be ready when these finish up. As the season wears on, it will take less and less time for each of these bulbs to be “forced,” (because I am keeping them cool so they will already be chilled).

As it is now, the smaller bulbs will want 8-10 weeks and the hyacinths will want 10-12. That means they’ll be ready for me in the true dead of winter–when I want them most!

2 thoughts on “How Does A Gardener Get Through Winter?

  1. tonytomeo November 14, 2018 / 9:26 pm

    This is certainly no tropical paradise, but winters are ironically so mild that there are not many bulbs that naturalize in the gardens here. We can plant them now to bloom in spring, but only a few will survive to bloom for a second spring. We do not force many bulbs, but we do not grow so many in the garden either.

  2. gardendaze November 15, 2018 / 6:04 am

    So many places can’t get a second bloom from bulbs. We do pretty well here with everything but tulips–most of our summers are too wet for them to perennialize. But of course, we have other sorts of issues with bulbs too–critters, mostly. If you ever saw my little “dance” on the soil after planting, you’d really wonder–but it’s just to convince squirrels and chipmunks that the soil hasn’t been disturbed so they should cache their acorns elsewhere. My flowerpots ususally work nicely.

    I have voles, but they don’t usually both too much of my ornamental stuff.

    Then in the spring, it’s deer and rabbits.

    Sometimes, I do wonder why I garden–but I did “invite” all the wildlife here by creating habitat, so I sure can’t whine about it now!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.