2010-01-21 / Features

Winter’s Best Buys – Potted and Cut Flowers

The Potting Shed
By Carole McCray

Bouquet in Cachepot Bouquet in Cachepot Winter is the season when the widest selection of fun, affordable bulb flowers is available. They are in floral shops, garden centers and supermarket floral departments and are just what one needs to brighten up days until spring weather arrives.

These winter wonders are largely spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths 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 scooped up and taken home to cheer the winter doldrums. Normally sold in modest 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 is slipped inside a second, slightly larger and prettier pot called a cachepot (from the French word for hidden pot).

Tilt-a-Tulip Tilt-a-Tulip No matter how you choose to display forced bulb flowers, following some simple tips will heighten enjoyment of these colorful, mid-winter bloomers.

Buy green and watch them grow

For longest enjoyment, choose potted plants with tight buds or barely open flowers, not those already in bloom. In these plants, the flower is fully formed and ready to burst forth.

Dress down or up

Potted bulbs are great displayed casually in their plastic nursery pots or wrapped in decorative foil. Or, they can easily go upscale dolled up in myriad ways by using more decorative containers, repotting in one of your pretty pots or using the double pot cachepot technique.

To repot: Select a container that has a drainage hole at the bottom (later, 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, consider bringing home several inexpensive pots of flowers to combine by repotting into one larger container. Combining pots is a fun, easy way to creatively “garden” indoors in the winter.

To double pot with a cachepot: Select a decorative container that is 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 want to add a plastic tray at the bottom to catch any leaks.

So easy, so colorful

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.

Winter winds carry more than ice and snow. With them come a blizzard of colorful spring flowers, a simple treat to lighten up a somber winter day.

Tulip design styles from

Holland to try at home

Tucked in Tight: To create this fresh design, tuck flowers in tightly in the vase, with the flower heads just looming over the rim. Hugged together like this, the flower heads present an appealing mass of intense color. Just one type of flower and one color; that’s it. To many, this implied balance flies in the face of the longtime floral design tradition that puts the ideal flowers-tovase proportion at 2/3 flowers to 1/3 vase.

Tilt-a-Tulip: Tulips don’t act like other flowers, so why arrange them normally? Put them at a tilt! This technique plays off the tulip’s classic architectural shape, in balance with the shape and scale of the vase.

Loop de Loop: Tulips have yet another trick. If left out of water for several hours, their stems become limp and bent. Tulips in this noodle-like state can be molded into odd positions, then re-introduced to water to stiffen up in the position you have put them. Limp tulips can be woven through a lattice or curled into round glass bowls to be displayed fully enclosed in clear glass. Add fresh water, as needed. Tulips are thirsty flowers.

Carole McCray lives, writes and gardens in the scenic Laurel Highlands east of Ligonier, Pa. She is an awardwinning writer; her most recent award was the Garden Writers Association Award for her article on Native Seeds, which apepared in The Christian Science Monitor newspaper. She can be reached at mountain26@verizon.net. Photos courtesy of Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center.

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