For those who read this blog regularly, you know I often force bulbs in winter to keep my gardening chops alive and kicking.
Who am I kidding? I start bulbs in winter to keep from losing my ever-loving mind. Most of January 2019, was cloudy, and February started out the same with the addition of a sleet and ice storm for a bright red cherry on top of the winter sundae.
In August, I received my hyacinth bulbs from Van Engelen. I usually buy their exhibition collection because the bulbs are quite large with more blooming power. In years past, I’ve forced them in a variety of ways. In Oklahoma, you never know what the weather will bring, whether winter will be cold or warm, so it’s hard to force bulbs, but I persevere–see sanity, above.
In September, I put a lot of them on glass filling up the vases with water to just below the bulb’s basal plate, i.e., bottom. I then put them in the refrigerator and waited. I planted others in potting soil in various shallow containers and topped the soil with rocks to hold the bulbs down and provide an attractive top dressing. During the changes in weather, bulbs will try to heave themselves out of the potting soil.
Some years I use vintage containers. Other years, I use terra cotta. It depends on my mood and what’s to hand in September. I’m usually really busy in the garden in September so I just plant what I can, but I remind myself I’ll need the flowers in February.
In December, we had an Advent/Christmas party so I took the bulbs out of the garage refrigerator–I needed the space for extra food–and placed them in our unheated garage for a few days with the door closed. They need darkness at first. I noticed that some of my vases were cracked and broken. We had two very strong cold fronts come through Oklahoma that made the refrigerator too cold, and four or five vases broke under the icy pressure.
Another strong cold front came through while the vases were sitting on top of a garage countertop, and more vases froze and broke. I’ve never had this problem before. The vases are usually pretty sturdy.
Now, I can hear some of you saying, why didn’t I just keep the bulbs in a paper sack in the fridge until I was ready to put them on
I salvaged what I could and put several vases in the broom closet in the kitchen. The broom closet backs up to a dog run between the house and the garage. If the weather is cold, this closet is also cold, but not as cold as the garage. So, I thought the broom closet was a good transitory place. By this time, the hyacinths had been in the cold for about two and a half months.
One morning I opened the closet door to check out things, and my first thought was like that of Miss Clavel in Madeline, “Something is not right.”
Three vases were on their sides, and the two bulbs that had been
It was a rat! No, not a mouse. I’ve lived in the country for 30 years. I’ve seen more than my fair share of mice. This was no mouse, my friends. It was a very large rodent.
Surprisingly, I didn’t jump or scream. I just picked up the half-eaten bulb, sighed and called Bill. I told you I’ve lived out
Bill had it in a small, brown paper bag when he offered to show it to me. I had to laugh because his brown eyes twinkled, and he was just like a little boy trying to see if it would scare me. It did not. It was big and gray and dead. I’ll spare you the picture.
Now, the weirdest part of this story is animals don’t like to eat hyacinths. I’ve always read that they are toxic to cats, dogs, and ‘er rats. Oxalic acid is pretty potent stuff. When you plant hyacinths you need to wash your hands thoroughly or wear gloves. Otherwise, you will itch when you touch your face. So, I was dumbfounded when two bulbs were missing and one was half-eaten. I wish I’d taken a photo of the half-eaten bulb, but I was more concerned about getting rid of the rat at the time.
Now, not all of this is bad news. After we dispensed with the rat. I brought in more bulbs, and I now have many, many hyacinths blooming. A few rotted. I think I’ll try fewer, but more interesting varieties next year.
I’m curious about the rat though. Did it have indigestion before it died? I hope so.