I love the simplicity of these hyacinths, requiring just a bulb, glass jar, and water. They provide you with scented blooms in the middle of winter, and even before flowering they look beautiful, with their incredible roots twisting and weaving around the inside of the jar. Choose jars with narrow necks so the bulbs do not sit in water, varying the shapes and sizes of them to create an interesting display.
You will need
A selection of glass jars with narrow necks
Hyacinth bulbs suitable for forcing
Newspaper or scrap paper
1 Fill a clean glass jar with water, stopping just short of the rim. Dry around the rim to ensure that the bulb will not get wet.
2 Place a hyacinth bulb on the rim of the jar, with the pointed end facing upward. If the roots of the bulb have already started to sprout, tuck them into the jar, being careful not to damage them. If the bottom of the bulb does touch the water, remove the bulb and pour a little water out, as the bulb may start to rot if in direct contact with water.
3 To make a cover for the bulb, cut a piece of paper about 10x14in (25x35cm). Fold it in half, matching up the two shorter sides.
4 With the fold along the top of the paper, fold the top right and left corners down to meet each other in the middle, then crease along the folds.
5 Fold the bottom edge of the top layer of paper up by about 1in (2.5cm) and crease along the fold. Fold it over again by the same amount.
6 Repeat step 5 on the other side of the paper.
7 Open the hat shape up and carefully slip over the bulb and top of the jar, making sure that the bulb stays in place. Keep it in a dark, cool cupboard or shed.
8 Check the bulb after a few weeks, by which time the roots should have grown and the bulb should have started to shoot. If it has not, simply leave it for a little longer. When the bulb has started to grow, bring it out into the light and remove the paper cover. Leave in a warm spot and within a few weeks (depending on the conditions) the hyacinth should flower.
Check the water level in the jars and top up if necessary. If the foliage develops much faster than the flower, put the bulb back into the dark for a few days, making sure it is in a cool spot. When the hyacinths have bloomed, cut off the dead flower and leave for a few weeks with the leaves in place, then either plant out in a sheltered spot in the garden or dry the bulbs out and store in a cool shed, ready to replant the following autumn.
Extracted from The Winter Garden by Emma Hardy (Cico Books, approx €20), out now. Photographs by Debbie Patterson.