I've had so many e-mails about forcing branches for inside that I thought a sporadic series of postings about what flowers are about in the UK (Northern branch) now might be interesting. The easiest way seems to be to highlight the flowers that I have in my own home at a particular time and to explain how to grow them and condition them to be inside.
In some ways this is going to be frustrating - in that planting obviously needs to be done well in advance - but hopefully some of the ideas will be useful and I shall be able to collate them into a more useful form in the future; probably through the newsletter.
At the moment these are the flowers in my hall iris reticulata planted up into some old bowls. I am a sucker for old sponge-ware bowls and use these for a selection of bulbs from December through to April.
The iris are Iris reticulata "pixie" and were planted in late autumn into a loose mix of potting compost and vermiculite in those blue mesh like mushroom boxes that organic mushrooms are delivered in; these seem never to be returned to the grower as I see lots lying around outside shops and restaurants on bin day. They are very useful.
The bulbs in their tray were then left outside the greenhouse for 10 weeks to get properly chilled. This develops the shoot. Then they were brought into the greenhouse in batches to force them into flower. I don't put heat under them, the 2-3 degree hike in temperature just convinces them that spring has arrived. You can leave them outside if you don't have a greenhouse, they just flower a couple of weeks later.
Then, when you can see the flower inside the leaves, I carefully prise them out of the compost and re-pot them in my bowls; bulbs are quite happy for a short period without drainage. This will work with those pots of spring bulbs that are in garden centres and flower shops now. Just water them well and tease the bulbs apart before potting them into a cup, bowl or teapot.
The sticks in the vase behind the iris are birch; hopefully their bright green leaves will start to emerge in the next week or so. I also have some cherry branches and odd prunings of clematis, rose and daphne dotted about the house to see what happens. I won't get any flowers from the rose but there should be leaves.