Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Greenhouse Scent – Part 14

Many winter flowers are highly scented to attract any pollinating insects that are brave enough to forage outside on a still and hopefully sunny day. In the garden many of these winter stalwarts are already in flower.

I had great intentions to plant some prepared hyacinths in August and September so that I had plenty of scented flowers for the house over the festive season, but somehow the weeks ran away with me and it didn’t happen. I do feel annoyed and a little bit guilty about that, but even if I had got around to it, I do wonder if they would have dried out during the glorious weather we had last month.

So imagine how pleased I was during a visit to the local garden centre when I found pots of plump and bud bursting bulbs all ready grown in trios in a range of fabulous colours. At two pots for £5 (that’s 6 bulbs in total) I simply couldn’t resist and bought a pot of purple pink ‘Purple Sensation’ and a pot of rich blue ‘Blue Delft’ for a present.

A cool greenhouse is a brilliant place to grow these bulbs on. Now that the shoots are 2-3 inches tall and the flower buds are developing, they can be placed in a cool, bright place to develop. As soon as the flowers start to open and release their divine scent I will bring them indoors into the house so that they can add their fragrance to the kitchen or living room.

It’s not too late to start off a pot or two of scented narcissi bulbs for indoor growth. They won’t flower for Christmas but if you can still find some bulbs then plant them into pots, or position them into decorative glass jars. These can then be kept in a cool greenhouse to develop.

How to Grow Paperwhite Narcissi

1 Choose a large, clean glass vase and cover the bottom with some coloured slate or decorative pebbles, about three inches (7.5cm) deep. Place three Narcissi ‘Paper White’ bulbs onto this base and infill with smaller pebbles or slate to hold them steady.

2 If desired, you can now add another layer of bulbs above the first and infill with more slate or pebbles. Gently fill the vase with tepid water until it only reaches the very base of the bottom layer of bulbs. Do not overfill or the bulbs will rot in the water. The roots can grow down into the water to obtain the sustenance they need.

3 Keep the vase in a cool, light and airy place such as cool greenhouse and watch as the roots quickly fill the slate or pebble layer and the flower buds and leaves develop above. Keep the water level topped up to the bottom layer of bulbs. When the flower buds are starting to open bring the vase into the house or leave in a cool conservatory or greenhouse to scent to room.

I’m also planting a few pots of tulips at the moment and these will be grown in the protected environment of my greenhouse so that I will have some early spring colour next season. I may place them on the patio for some beautiful spring colour or I may pick the flowers and bring them indoors if the weather outside is still too murky and cold. If there’s one thing you can guarantee about spring now, it’s that the bulbs you plant this autumn will put on a stunning display next year provided you plant them properly and keep them free from pests.