Hyacinth vases

Placing the bulb in the hyacinth vase

I began forcing hyacinths in vases several years ago. I became enamored of the process, and it’s now a ritual to take out the vases, wash all of them in soapy water and get them ready for their hyacinth bulbs. They spend most of the year in a broom closet in our kitchen on shelves Bill built for me. This closet backs up to the dog run and stays cool all year, essential for forcing.

Clean hyacinth vases look like jewels on the kitchen countertop.
Clean hyacinth vases look like jewels on the kitchen countertop.

In July, I ordered the forcing and exhibition hyacinth collection from Van Engelen Wholesale Bulbs. This is the same collection I bought last year. When the bulbs arrived mid-August, I put them in the refrigerator in a paper sack to chill them. About four weeks ago, I took out four and planted them in a couple of forcing bowls, but I saved the rest for my hyacinth vases. Bulbs need approximately sixteen weeks of chilling in order to fully form their flowers. I’ve gotten impatient in the past as you can see from the photo below. Now, when I put them in the fridge I ask Siri to remind me when they should come out. Otherwise, I forget.

An indoor garden of blooming bulbs makes winter go by faster.
An indoor garden of blooming bulbs makes winter go by faster.

After Christmas and celebration of the new year, there is nothing like having an indoor garden to get you through the next three and half months of cloudy, dismal weather.

To be honest, I don’t even like traditional hyacinths grown outdoors. They are like stodgy regimental soldiers always at attention. It’s this very stodginess, however, that makes them excellent for forcing. In my part of the U.S., we can’t run down to the corner grocery and get a pre-chilled bulb so we must do it ourselves. Just remember, don’t place your bulbs in the same refrigerator where you’ll have fruit like apples. The ethylene gas given off by fresh fruit kills the tiny embryo inside the bulb.

We wouldn’t want that.

You can also put the hyacinths directly on vase when you chill them in the refrigerator as Kevin does at A Garden for the House. I’ve done it that way too, but sometimes we need the space in the refrigerator. Storing them in bags takes up less room.

The bigger bulb on the right will produce a better and larger flower. It even looks less dried out than the bulb on the left.
The bigger bulb on the right will produce a better and larger flower. It even looks less dried out than the bulb on the left.

When buying bulbs of any sort, size does matter. A bigger bulb equals better flower production. With some bulbs, like amaryllis, it also means more flowers. I bought a few ‘Carnegie’ bulbs at a local nursery because I didn’t think I had any. I was there. The bulbs were there, and so I bought them. You can see from the photo, above, how much smaller they are. I know that the bigger bulb is ‘Pink Pearl,’ but variety doesn’t matter in this case. Bulbs come in different sizes. Bigger is always better. To get the biggest bulbs, you simply must order from a reputable source, and there are so many from which to choose.

Placing the bulb in the hyacinth vase
Placing the bulb in the hyacinth vase

Getting the water right is a bit tricky because every hyacinth vase is different, and where the bulb sits in the vase is different too. So, I put the water up to where I think it should go. Then, I place the bulb on top and check the level. Also, if you touch the bulb with your bare hands, don’t touch bare skin afterward, or you will itch. Hyacinths have calcium oxalate which can cause contact dermatitis.

My face was very itchy yesterday.

If you look closely at this hyacinth vase, you can see the water line is in the top third of the blue strip just below the bulb's basal plate.
If you look closely at this hyacinth vase, you can see the water line is in the top third of the blue strip just below the bulb’s basal plate.

The bulb basal plate–the bottom where the roots emerge–should be just above the water, almost touching, but not quite. You don’t want your bulb to rot, but you do want the roots to sense the water. After I adjust the water level, I then put the bulbs back into the closet until they have roots, and the top growth is about an inch to an inch and a half high.

See those in front with the yellow tips? They just came out of the closet today. The vase on the left is modern. The turquoise one may be modern too, but it has the Tye type shape. It came from England.
The hyacinth tips will be yellow until they sit in sunlight for a few days, and roots will fill the vases.

This top growth will be yellow until they hyacinth soaks up a few days of sun. Isn’t nature amazing? I think forcing hyacinths would be a great project for kids if you first chill the bulbs for them. A great parent or grandparent project because kids can see the root growth and the emerging flower. It’s a science experiment in a glass vase. You don’t have to use forcing vases either. You can use any vase if you first make a platform for the bulb to sit upon.

I love collecting my antique vases and using them. I enjoy playing with them each year. I hope you enjoy them too. Happy Holidays!

 

A package from the postwoman!

I got a big box in the mail. My postal carrier, who is a dear woman, drove it up my long driveway and honked for me to come outside. She said, “It looks like rain so I didn’t want to leave this one in the box.” We have a box just for packages on our fence. Keeps the dogs from tearing into them.

Like Pooh Bear, I almost said, “Tut, tut . . .,” but I didn’t think she’d get the reference. She might even be offended. Does anyone even say “tut, tut” anymore? Probably not. Like The Little Engine That Could and The Little Red Hen (Paul Galdone Classics), Pooh’s dialogue, in The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, is mostly packed in mothballs these days. Please read these stories to your children. They will remember one day and thank you for it. Claire and I were discussing the first two books this morning on our way to school. Also,Henry and Mudge and Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea. Claire said the Henry and Mudge books made her think she could read long before she could. She’d memorized them, but I digress.

Back to the package. I bet it isn’t packed with mothballs. At least, I hope not. Don’t you just love packages from far, far away? They always hold a bit of mystery inside, and even if from only across town, they feel like they’ve traveled from afar. Mine states “Breakable–Glass” on its front. Shall we open it together?

A box with treasures inside!
A box with treasures inside!

I know I don’t look happy, but I am just concentrating, trying to take a selfie. It’s harder than you think. I can hear my children laughing.

Postmark from Canada
Postmark from Canada

Look! The postmark says it’s from Canada. Hello Canadian friends! Ooh, look inside. I wish they’d used biodegradable filler. It could go on the compost pile instead of the landfill. Unfortunately, they did not. Sigh.

Not biodegradable filler
Not biodegradable filler, not a good thing.

Uncovered, we see four little packages wrapped and strapped and snuggled into their beds.

Look at those little packages snuggled in their box bottoms up!
Look at those little packages snuggled in their box. Bottoms up!

Have you guessed yet what they are? Shall I show you another photo?

You can see they wrap them very well.
You can see they were wrapped very well.

Ready to see them? I know I am!

A Tye-type vase. It appears to be old because of the width of its top. It is also not molded. A good find.
A Tye-type vase. It appears to be old because of the width of its top. It is also not molded. A good find.

The one above is a Tye-type of hyacinth vase. Its shape was created by George Pearcy Tye in England in the mid-1800s. It has been copied ever since. There are blown glass examples and molded ones like the second vase below. The Birmingham History Forum (UK) has more information on Mr. Tye. The vase, above, is older and blown glass. You can tell from the sharpness at the top and the place on the bottom where it was connected to the blow tube. It is not, however, an original Tye because it doesn’t have the markings needed, “Gt Charles St, Birmingham” and in the middle: ‘G P Tye.’ Some also included ‘1850’”. This is quoted from my favorite UK blog on forcing, Garden Withindoors. It is from Julie’s first blog: Hyacinth Vases. Before you buy any vases on eBay, you may want to check out her list of researched prices. This is quite a service for an unknowing buyer.

Here’s vase #2: It is a molded variety, and from this photo, you should be able to see the line on the side. This means it is a newer variety. I can’t tell you how new, but I know molded vases were produced well into the middle of the 20th Century. It also has a polished rim that is very smooth, another indication that it is molded. In the back part of the photo is my dining room. The part bathed in light is my seed starting station. Right now, it’s full of amaryllis and paperwhites under light. We’ve been very cloudy so I’m giving them a bit of extra help to get them going. I want paperwhites and some amaryllis, preferably the red ones, by Christmas. I also put some out in the greenhouse to get an early start. To learn more about growing amaryllis, may I suggest Matt Mattus’ informative post, Amaryllis Confidential. He’s a bulb connoisseur and knows a lot about them.

We know this is a newer vase because it is molded. Can you see the line on the side?
We know this is a newer vase because it is molded. Can you see the line on the side?

While this vase is not as graceful as the older one, who really cares? I’m just using them to grow hyacinths so I don’t go mad in winter. Some of the best information on all things forcing are on blogs from the Netherlands. I found several through Pinterest, and fortunately Google Chrome makes an attempt to translate them for me. Sometimes, the verbiage is pretty funny and wrong, but I still get the gist of what the author is trying to say.

Now, on to vase #3. Don’t you feel like they are pageant girls? Maybe it’s their hourglass shape. Vase #3 is a blown variety. See the bottom? That tells you it is mouth-blown. It does have a smooth top and was polished. It is a round variety. I don’t know about its date, but I think it is old.

See where it was blown and cut off from the pipe?
See where it was blown and cut off from the pipe?

Here’s another shot of it.

Cute little round, green hyacinth vase
Cute little round, green hyacinth vase

Vase #4 may not be a vase at all. It could be a candle holder, and it’s a strange little creature. It is sorta lopsided. I knew this when I bought it. I loved it’s color and unique shape. Even if it is a candle holder, it will still work as a bulb vase.

Even if this is a candle holder, it will still work as a bulb vase too.
Candle holder or vase? You decide.

So, those are my prezzies to me. I have been on a bulb vase binge this year. I started earlier than last year, and the prices were great. I’m still waiting on a package from the Royal Mail (UK) with three Tye-type vases in unique colors. I’ll let you know when they get here. In meantime, here are the four vases sitting on my kitchen table. I cleaned them which is always a pleasure. Look how they shine. Can’t you just see purple hyacinths in them, or red tulips? I can.

Four Green hyacinth vases
Green hyacinth vases

Did you buy yourself any pre-Christmas presents? Will they come in small or large packages? Do tell.