Forcing traditional paperwhites doesn't have to be boring! Photos Leslie Halleck

In The Garden: Bulbscaping Indoors

Bring the great outdoors in!

Bulbscaping: It’s what I call my indoor gardening activities this time of year. As herbaceous plants go dormant outdoors, try turning your attention to creating some spectacular bulb displays inside your home. If you haven’t already, there’s still time to force bulbs indoors for the holidays or the new year. While the image of the same-old paperwhites in a terracotta dish might not entice you to rush out to the garden center, know that forcing bulbs doesn’t have to be boring. You can shake things up with stylish containers, natural findings and ornaments to create stunning centerpieces or gifts.

Colorful reindeer moss, silver spheres, recycled glass and twigs modernize this bulb planting.
Colorful reindeer moss, silver spheres, lichens recycled glass and twigs modernize this bulb planting.

Don’t be afraid to add some bling to your bulb gardens. I like to use mosses and other natural elements, combined with decorative objects or ornaments to create eye-catching centerpieces.  Personalized creations make for really lovely office and client gifts this time of year.  Bulbs you can force indoors include paperwhites, traditional daffodils, amaryllis, grape hyacinth, crocus, tulips and more.

Fill container with a porous substrate; top with a stylish one.
Fill container with a porous substrate; top with a stylish one.

Choose a shallow watertight container that fits your home or holiday decor style Fill it about 3/4 full with a substrate like expanded shale, recycled glass, beads or any other substrate that will allow some space for roots to grow. Fill with water up to the top of the substrate. Nestle your bulbs into the substrate so that the base of the bulb comes in contact with the water; you don’t need to bury the bulb, as it may rot. Topdress your container with contrasting elements in colors of your choice. Voila! You’ve got yourself a beautiful and unexpected bulbscape. Keep water filled to the base of the bulbs. As the bulbs begin to grow you’ll find you need to refresh the water more often.

PLANT GEEK TIP: Tired of those tall paperwhites toppling over on you? All they really needed was a shot of vodka (don’t we all). Adding some alcohol, about 5%, to the water will keep your paperwhites significantly shorter while putting on the same amount of blooms.  Once your paperwhites start rooting in and putting up small green shoots, drain off your original water. Mix a 7:1 ration of water to vodka (7 parts water to 1 part vodka). That will give you about a 5% alcohol solution, as vodka is 40% alcohol.

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