Class notes: How-to

How to make flowers grow in winter

Elizabeth Licata, BA ’84, Editor-in-chief, Buffalo Spree

For the past 15 years, Elizabeth Licata has been the editor-in-chief of Buffalo Spree, an award-winning city magazine that keeps its finger on the pulse of Buffalo life and culture. An avid gardener, Licata also writes for two gardening blogs, including the highly acclaimed Garden Rant. In 2006, she published “Garden Walk Buffalo,” a book about the country’s oldest garden walk, which she also helps to run.

Recently, Licata has been using a method called “bulb-forcing” to make sure she’s surrounded by blooming flowers year-round. We asked her for tips on how to use this method to keep some color around the house through the long, dark months ahead.

Illustration by Richard Faust

Pick your bulbs
Personally, I like hyacinths and narcissus. They’re easy to force and they give off a great smell, too.

Make them comfy
Place your bulbs in a glass container lined with stones or beads. You can place multiple bulbs in one container—just make sure they don’t touch. Fill with just enough water to touch the base of the bulbs. If you’re more into the vintage look, there are tons of beautiful forcing vases available online or at local gardening centers.

Let them chill
Narcissus can start to develop at room temperature, but most bulbs need to be stored between 35 and 45 degrees for around eight weeks. While root cellars or cold attics are ideal, a refrigerator will work just as well, as long as there is no produce nearby. Beer fridges are perfect.

Thaw them out
Once you start to see roots and shoots emerging from your bulbs, move them to a dimly lit room where they can develop more quickly. This in-between stage is a great time to give bulbs as gifts to friends and family.

Give them some sun
After they’ve had about a week to develop, move your bulbs to a well-lit windowsill on the south or west end of your house. Soon you’ll have beautiful, fragrant flowers to keep yourself in a springtime state of mind all winter long.