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Forcing amaryllis and muscari bulbs: An At Home Journal (Week 14)

My favorite arrangement of hydroponic grape hyacinths grown in water from their bulbs.Feb. 27: A Grape Hyacinth Cocktail:

This is the favorite of all my hydroponic muscari bulb arrangements.

Grown from bulbs in a decorative cocktail glass filled with clear flat marbles and water, it made a very pretty gift, especially since these decided to bloom in these days when the ground is still covered with a thick blanket of snow.

While I don't really like the idea planting bulbs in pots of dirt to force them to bloom indoors, I like the ease of the water-only forcing technique.

As with my muscari arrangement in the larger blue bowl, their growth was attractive even before flowers formed. It took a bit longer for these bulbs to present flowers, probably because they were in a chilly area near a sliding glass door.

For me, part of the appeal for this arrangement is the way the roots formed a thick web through the marbles in the bowl of the glass. Some roots have even grown down into the base.

In the case of this arrangement and the larger blue bowl arrangement, the excitement of seeing the first blossom was multiplied when I checked a day or two later and there were five or six more.


A single muscari bulb blossomed in a glass bottle cap filled with four flat marbles and water.  Fill the bowl of a large decorative cocktail glass (or any clear glass vessel) with clear glass marbles and add enough water to come to the top of the marbles. With pointed side up, place as many grape hyacinth (muscari) bulbs on top as will fit. You can basically forget about them until they need more water. In about two weeks, the first green shoots should show, my flowers appeared after about three months.

The 'planting' technique, which also works with large amaryllis bulbs, can be found in detail  here. All the journal entries covering the previous weeks of growing can be found in the Gardening section of the site.

Thanks to Longfield Gardens in Lakewood, NJ for providing the bulbs that made my testing possible.  I'm especially grateful to co-owner Hans Langeveld who patiently answered all my questions on how to grow bulbs in water without one speck of dirt. The company did not pay me for these posts.

This will likely be my last entry about forcing bulbs until the end of March when it's time to bring up the tulip bulbs that are now chilling in my basement.



Sarah and Bret Gelderman's Westfield nursery


Forcing amaryllis and muscari bulbs: An At Home Journal (Weeks 12 - 13)

Amaryllis 'Splash' flowers open one by one. Smaller buds are developing at the center. Appropriately, the red and white flowers began to open on Valentine's Day.

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Turn a zesty cheddar bread into Parmesan chile-cheese bread

The loaf of Parmesan Chile-Cheese Bread cools on a wire rack.Last winter, I fell in love with the recipe for Zesty Cheddar Bread from Betty Crocker's "The Big Book of Bread."

The recipe is perfect for winter soups, and it is so easy and so successful that it just makes sense to try making it with other cheeses.

So far, I've baked it with Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheeses, substituting canned green chilis, which I usually have on hand, for the canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce used in the original recipe. I use a whole 4-ounce can of green chiles in the recipe. They are pretty mild, with only the slightest kick, and the green specks are attractive in the loaf.

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Amaryllis bulbs: Winter flowers on a houseplant that's perfect for gifts

In a few months, when winter days are short and color is craved indoors and out, the big, bold flowers of amaryllis can come to the rescue as a houseplant.

Amaryllis are surprisingly easy to grow indoors as a winter houseplant. Their colors range from brights to pastels and bi-colors. There are shades of red, orange, pink, white and even green. Amaryllis 'Monaco' (shown) is a vibrant cherry-red accented by a white eye and white stamens. 

All that’s needed to grow them inside is the large bulb, potting soil and a six- or seven-inch pot with a drainage hole, says horticulturist Christian Curless of, which sells a broad selection of amaryllis and other fall-planted bulbs at wholesale prices. 

To begin, simply pot the bulb with its top third positioned above the soil line. Water well at planting, then water only as needed --  when the soil becomes dry to the touch. With proper care, the first blooms will appear 8 to 12 weeks from planting, Curless says. One large bulb produces at least two stems, sometimes three, each bearing four or more velvety flowers.

For a broad selection of amaryllis and other fall-planted bulbs at wholesale pricing, see or call (888) 847-8637. The minimum order is $60

Longfield Gardens, a New Jersey-based bulb company, also sells a number of options, including amaryllis, tulips and hyacinths at