Smith and Hawken was responsible for turning on the country to the joys of forcing Spring bulbs throughout the holidays and into the winter. It's April Fools Day here in Chicago, and the Star Magnolia, Scilla siberica, Forsythia, Crocus, and a few early Narcissus are blooming in the ground...given a few brisk Spring rainshowers, more will follow.
Did you attempt any bulb forcing yourselves? In the miserable aftermath of the closing of Smith and Hawken nationwide, I anticipated my withdrawal by stashing away two bags of Muscari armeniacum (the venerable Grape Hyacinth) in the Kelvinator last October. There they slept, going through the faux winter in what had been the bin reserved for carrots and parsnips...until around the first of February. In the picture, you'll see a dynamite oval roasting pan in Cream and Hoosier green which I scored at an estate sale in Wilmette. Chipped, Dinged, Lidless, and 3.5 inches deep...TWO BITS!!!
Filling the pan about half full of soiless mix and arranging randomly 20 Grape Hyacinth bulbs (tip upward), I covered the bulbs with soil to just below the rim of the pan and placed it in a cool darkened location away from the bright winter sun and heat. Kept uniformly moist, not soggy, about the condition of a squeezed out kitchen sponge, the bulblets sensed the ringing of their miniature biological alarm clocks and began sprouting. This photo was taken right around March 7, five weeks after potting up, and now, at Eastertide, they are in full bloom, a grassy sprawl of shaded lilac and violet right atop my Danish Grandpa Lyngso's oak roll top desk.
Next up this weekend, a trip to my favorite secret beds of Chaenomeles japonica (Flowering Quince) to cut some branches for forcing indoors.
If you have questions on your garden, have finally decided this is the year the old patio goes bye-bye, or want a professionally designed landscape master plan so you can do the sweatin' and gruntin' your own self, please call me at 847.345.4711. We've just sent out the first preview announcement for an awesome Spring sale to be held at a glorious retail space down in the North Loop later this month. If you'd like to sign up to be on our regular email list for this event, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Signing up to "follow" this blog ensures you'll get a notice whenever we post something new. Check up on what's for sale by putting "4711" into the search box for "all items for sale" on http://www.chicago.craigslist.org/. Add a comment below to this topic, tell me what you've forced this year or in past ones...cry on my shoulder about Smith and Hawken's demise, ask me if I know which nursery you might be able to find a "thus and so"... 'K???