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Tulips that twist and turn offset winter doldrums

Take tulips to the nth degree: fill a vase or two with an abundance of lush plush parrot tulips in soft shades of violet, cream, green, yellow and orange.

Bring Potted Bulbs Indoors for Winter Color

Winter winds carry more than rain and sleet; they bring a blizzard of colorful spring flowers. Winter is the season when shops and supermarket floral departments are laden with a wide selection of fun, affordable bulb flowers in pots.

Just as textiles, furniture and dinnerware brighten your home with color, so can bulbs in pots. It makes no difference what your color scheme is, bulbs in pots will always fill the bill. Limit your palette to a few select hues or decorate with a myriad of colors.

By experimenting with various plants and pots, you can give a room just the right amount of contrast. Good indoor bulb plants to start with are the first crocuses that become available or an array of white or brown and green hippeastrums, a member of the amaryllis family. You can also brighten winter rooms with cut tulips, gladiolas or other winter bloomers.

Enjoy one stem, two or more. Better yet, pick up a bunch or two. Winter and early spring are peak seasons for cut tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, with best prices and best selections available coast-to-coast.

Winter wonders such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are bulbs that have been brought into flower early by nursery growers using an age-old process called forcing. Forced bulbs might more accurately be called fooled bulbs, as the growers use a combination of cooling and light treatments to trick the bulbs into flowering early. The happy results of this deceptive behavior are stocks of colorful flowers ready to be taken home to brighten winter days.

Normally sold in plastic pots, forced bulbs lend themselves to a variety of creative decorating ideas. At home, they can be featured “as is” or repotted into new containers. Another option is double-potting in which the plastic pot is slipped inside a second, slightly larger and prettier pot called a cachepot. No matter how you choose to display potted forced bulb flowers, following some simple tips will heighten enjoyment of these colorful, mid-winter bloomers.

How should potted bulb plants be selected?

For longest enjoyment, choose potted plants with tight buds or barely open flowers, not those already in full bloom. In these plants, the flower is fully formed and ready to burst forth for your enjoyment at home. It’s just as much fun to watch the green plants grow as it is to watch the velvety flowers bloom. Choose potted bulbs with tighter buds than you would select for cut flowers.

How do I repot the plants once I get them home?

Low-growing flower bulbs are very well suited for planting in flower boxes.  To repot, select a container that has a drainage hole at the bottom (place a plate or saucer below the pot to protect table tops from moisture). Transplant the bulbs by gently removing the plants, soil and all, from their nursery pot. Then simply replant into the new pot. For a more dramatic display, buy several inexpensive pots of flowers to combine by repotting into one larger container. For a combination arrangement, early-flowering bulbs should be planted near the top (or back), and later-flowering ones at the bottom (or front). Combining pots is a fun, easy way to creatively garden indoors in the wintertime.

To double pot with a cachepot, select a decorative container that’s large enough to hold the existing plant, pot and all. In this case the inner nursery pot provides drainage, the outer pot is for show. You can even use this technique in porous containers such as baskets, but you might need to add a plastic tray at the bottom to catch any leaks.

How do I care for potted flower bulbs?

Water potted bulbs as needed, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. To enjoy maximum bloom time, avoid placing blooming plants in direct sunlight, in drafty spots or next to sources of heat.

Bulbs in pots are usually thought of as houseplants. But what many people don’t know is that they will also perform beautifully outside. Once hard frosts are past, potted hyacinths, tulips, narcissi and crocuses can be featured outdoors in bigger decorative pots. Great places to use bulbs in pots include: next to the front and back doors, atop the garden table, on the patio or balcony or for filling in gaps in the garden. Brilliant choices for outside use are hyacinths and Narcissus Tête-à-Tête. It’s in the morning mist following a cold night that hyacinths display their real ability to stand up to the forces of nature, and you don’t have to worry about harm from ground frost. The flowers might look a bit groggy in the morning, but they’ll soon be standing up straight and tall again.

Hint: If you’re having trouble keeping cut tulips upright, you’re not alone. Other flowers stay put once cut. Not tulips. Tulips keep growing in the vase — gaining an inch in height or more. And they bend. Gracefully they twist and turn, leaning this way or that, toward sources of light. The seemingly whimsical bending of tulips is actually caused by the dual effects of continuing stem growth and the gentle pull of light and gravity on the flower head. For additiional floral style, care and handling tips, go to www.bulb.com.

Four vases of bright bloomers march across a windowsill, switching season from winter to spring in one fell swoop!

Tulips stand alone in their beauty, but also mix well with a few stems of budded twigs.

Fill one pretty vase with cut hyacinths and hellebores. Then add another! Round out the group with a third decorative item for a floral vignette

For an elegantly simple but over-the-top display, combine exotic parrot tulips with fresh green hellebores in a curvaceous vase.

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