Forcing bulbs in vintage bowls and other containers


A collection of bulbs I'm coaxing to bloom indoors.
A collection of bulbs I’m coaxing to bloom indoors.

For weeks, I’ve been mad about forcing, that process by which we coax bulbs to bloom indoors. Although I’ve done this for several seasons, I never really considered the containers.

A McCoy forcing bowl full of double 'Cheerfulness' narcissus. Wouldn't you like a bowl of cheer?
A McCoy forcing bowl full of double ‘Cheerfulness’ narcissus. Wouldn’t you like a bowl of cheer?

At least until I researched and discovered vintage bulb bowls. It was then I realized I’d seen these same bowls at one of Guthrie’s antique stores. There are many lovely antique stores in my little hometown, but I’m especially fond of two, Magnolia and Wisteria, owned by the same man, Art Aguirre. He has such a good eye, and even the names of his stores evoke romance.

Vintage chickens I bought from Wisteria a couple of years ago.
Vintage chickens I bought from Wisteria a couple of years ago.

I began buying old, ceramic chickens from Wisteria a couple of years ago. Art is a big collector of chickens as now am I, apparently. His grandmother gave him his first ceramic chicken when he was a boy. Parents and grandparents mean so much to their children, and can guide them into a love of collecting and gardening. I know my grandmother did. Vintage ceramic chickens are the easiest ever to care for. Nothing ever chases them around the coop or tries to eat them.

Now, I’ve asked him to keep a lookout for hyacinth vases and forcing bowls. In hyacinth vases, I’m fond of cobalt blue or amethyst glass. I have some of each along with the bright, Christmasy red and clear ones in my fridge below.

Most bulbs, other than paperwhites and amaryllis, need a chilling period. Mine are hanging out in the garage fridge.
Most bulbs, other than paperwhites and amaryllis, need a chilling period. Mine are hanging out in the garage fridge.

While we may be a bit late in the season for forcing, if you’ve stored your bulbs in the garage since you received them, they’ve been chilled at least partway. Anything you didn’t get into the ground, try putting it in a container with well drained soil and give it a try. You can also use rocks or pebbles for many bulbs too, and clear glass nicely shows off their growth. Since our winter hasn’t been very cold until the last couple of days, you may want to store these planted bulbs in an extra refrigerator–you know, the one you keep in the garage for beer. Just don’t store the containers near fruit that gives off ethylene gas. It will mess with your bulbs.

'La Paz' means peace. I wish peace for all of you this season.
‘La Paz’ means peace. I wish peace for all of you this season.

Or, head to your local garden center and get an amaryllis.  You can also quickly force paperwhites. Neither bulb requires chilling, and I wrote about less smelly paperwhites in my last post.

I'm trying to force tommies in this vintage, green forcing bowl from Shawnee pottery.
I’m trying to force tommies in this vintage, green forcing bowl from Shawnee pottery.

If you’re out shopping, or hit ebay, try finding some forcing bowls and vases. You can force in anything, but these beauties of a bygone decade make forcing a high art I think.



  1. granny annie says:

    Just popping in to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It has been a treat to find you this year thanks to my daughter. Your blog is wonderful.

  2. HGTVMallory says:

    What a creative way to use these fun vintage containers!!! I’m so inspired by this, both because I feel like I’m less likely to kill bulbs and because I have too many containers similar to yours lying around that would look MUCH better with flowers in them! Thanks Dee!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Mallory, thanks for stopping by. Yes, good containers shouldn’t go empty. Have fun with yours.

  3. joey says:

    Paperwhites bloomin’ here! Great containers, Dee.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Joey! I’m glad to hear it. What is the holiday season without paperwhites?

  4. Rose says:

    WOW that amarylis really is wild

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Mom, I knew you’d think it was wild. It’s all open today. Pretty amazing.

  5. How do these things go out of fashion? Your bowls are just lovely and perfectly suited to the task.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Barbara, I really don’t know. They seem to come and go, but they’re so awesome I think all of us should be using one or two.

  6. Hey, you just inspired me to go look at some of the shallow vintage vases I’ve collected, and now realize I could use them for bulb forcing. Hooray! Thanks, Dee.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Helen, how cool! Anything to get us through winter right?

  7. vickie moore says:

    Dee I’m so glad to learn about forcing bowls! I’ll be on the lookout for them! Thanks for the info & good luck with your project!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thanks Vickie. I’m so glad you’re excited about them too. We’ll all be forcing bulbs before long. 🙂

  8. Nice look to the blog Dee…I have to get organized one of these years to do this..looks awesome!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Donna, I just get bored and change it about once a year. I’m glad you like it.

  9. Great containers Dee. Love cobalt blue too, what a find with that Amaryllis container. Will look forward to reading how your tommies do in the pretty green dish.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Janet, I hope they work. I’ve never done tommies indoors before. Thanks!

  10. How fun! I have a dear gardening friend who does this every year, and she gives them as gifts. Sometimes they end up blooming in March or April–just in time for the spring holidays and outdoor planting. Your vintage finds are wonderful!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I was just thinking that I should give some of these as gifts. Wouldn’t they be wonderful blooming right around Easter? Great minds . . . .

  11. Barb Matthews says:

    Beautiful! I love having something blooming in the dreary days of Winter. The containers are pretty too.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you Barb. I do too.

  12. You have the most beautiful containers for your bulbs! I must learn to look at old containers more for this. I am forcing my first hyacinth ever. It’s in the frig. I’ll post it soon.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oooh, I’m excited about your hyacinth. Our winter weather is so unpredictable we never know if the hyacinths in the ground will do much. How fun to have them indoors to smell during spring.

  13. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Seeing all those containers of bulbs makes me want to get some onto a bulb vase so I will have something blooming after Christmas. Love those chickens.They would be the only ones I would be able to have.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Lisa, you should buy some of those chickens. They are wonderful. Art has a huge collection although I’ve bought several pairs.

  14. sharon says:

    we are so unfamiliar with forcing bubs here in Fl…..and why do you all do it…haha

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Sharon, Haha, indeed. We don’t have such beautiful winters like y’all. 🙂

  15. Jason says:

    Judy is also crazy about chickens. We have metal, concrete, and ceramic chickens. Also ducks and a peacock (other poultry is acceptable). Not really sure what the thing is about chickens, but I’m OK with it. Maybe I’ll check out Wisteria – do they have a website? – and get Judy a surprise chicken.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jason, I’m not sure if he has a website. He should, but if you search Guthrie and Wisteria antiques, you’ll get his phone number. I know he can send photos. He has lovely, lovely chickens of types, and he’s an expert collector of them. BTW, I’m not affiliated with him in any way. Visiting his stores are just ways for me to keep my writing energy up. Have a great Christmas.

  16. Dee, What a great article. Favorite pots, bowls, and vases adds another layer of enjoyment to growing bulbs indoors. May your holidays be filled with fragrance and blooms.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Thank you so much Jackie. May yours be also filled with beauty and fragrance all year long. Merry Christmas.

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