Bulbs For The Window-Garden


October, 1896

“A little summer all shut in.”

Source: agardenforthehouse.com

When the flowers are all gone from the outdoor garden, and the snow has covered everything green from sight, we turn with renewed pleasure to the house-plants.

These hardy bulbs I want to call your attention to will almost grow of themselves, and need no special knowledge or culture.  The remark has often been quoted that “A Dutch bulb can snap its fingers at the stupidest amateur alive, and grow and bloom in spite of him, whether the house be light or dark, hot or cold.”

They are “the flowers that bloom in the spring,” and are perfectly hardy out-of-doors; but, if we coax them a little, they can be made to believe that spring has come in mid-winter.

Tulips, hyacinths, crocus, narcissus, and others are commonly known as Dutch bulbs.  None of them are natives of Holland, but they grow them there largely for other countries.

By a little planning and forethought, one can have a succession of these charming flowers all winter, so that when one set is gone, another will take its place.

The hyacinth easily stands at the head for beauty, fragrance, lasting qualities, and easy culture.  It will grow in earth, sand, moss, or water; in pots, baskets, china, or glass dishes – anything that will hold a plant.  There are double and single flowers, in many shades of crimson to palest pinks; purples to palest blue, rosy, cream and pure white, orange and yellows.

Beginners should choose the single varieties and grow them in pots of earth, as they will give their finest spikes in good soil.

You will want a few pots of the early Roman hyacinth for Christmas.  They have loose spikes of white or pink fragrant flowers, the earliest of all hyacinths.

The tulip stands next.  It has brilliant colors, but is not fragrant.  The large, single varieties are best for the house.  The little dwarf tulips, Duc Van Thol, are the smallest, as well as earliest.

The narcissus, or daffodils, are beautiful and fragrant.  The Polyanthus narcissus, with large bunches of small flowers, yellow or white, are easily grown and fragrant.  The Chinese lily belongs to this variety.  The larger narcissus and double daffodils are all good and fragrant.

Crocuses are pretty when planted several together.  The best-named varieties should be chosen.  The Scilla Siberica is a gem – a small one; the flowers are small, but of the most brilliant blue, making a charming contrast to the yellows of the narcissus.

The freesia is a fine flower for the window-garden, and very easy to grow.  The foliage is grass-like, and flowers are white, tube-shaped on a loose spike, and of most delicate fragrance.

Buy the bulbs as soon as the bulb catalogues are out in the fall.  If you are near a dealer in bulbs, make your own selection.  If not, send to some reliable dealer for a catalogue, and make a selection, stating that you want them for the house.  I should buy the named bulbs of hyacinths, as they give better satisfaction, but it is not needful to buy the highest-priced bulbs, as there are many that will give good spikes at moderate price.

The soil they like best is good loam, made rich with well-rotted cow manure and if the loam is at all clayey, sand should be added.  It should be well mixed.  Common earthen flower-pots are the best to use.  A five-inch pot is none too large for one bulb of hyacinth, but a four-inch will do for a tulip bulb.

The tulips look better, having scant foliage, when grown three to six in a pot.  The crocus and narcissus need to be massed, say six crocus to a six-inch pot, or three narcissus for the same.

The first thing to be done is to place a piece of drainage over the hole in the bottom of the pot.  A piece of broken flower-pot is the best thing.  Then some more pieces broken small are added to the depth of an inch.  Fill the pot nearly full of earth, and press the bulb down in the centre of the pot.  Give the ot a rap on the ground to settle the soil.

When all are potted give them a good watering, so that the water runs through at the bottom.  Each pot should be covered with another pot, lacking that, a paper to shut out the light, and they should be placed in the coldest place you have.  In a cold frame out-of-doors, in the cold cellar or attic, or even a dark closet, anywhere in the cold and dark so the roots will grow.

They should remain, at least, six weeks, and be looked after and watered when the soil seems dry.  If you want to know when they are ready to go into the light, take a pot in your hand and turn it over on your other hand, and you will see the white thread-like roots running through the soil.  If not, put back again, for your plant cannot bloom without roots any more than you can work without food.

If you find there are plenty of roots, bring them into a cool room at first.  If the top has not grown much, it will now it has the light and warmth.

If the blossom spike does not seem to come up from the leaves, make a cone of paper and put over it, it will reach up to the light and grow tall.  During growth they should be kept watered, especially after the flowers begin to open.

The hyacinth must have plenty of water when in bloom.  After they begin blooming, the cooler they are kept the longer they will remain in bloom.  So they are just the thing for the table in the hall or reception-room.

If you have a handsome jardiniere you can select your flower-pots to fit it, and as fast as one plant goes out of bloom it can be replaced with a new one.

By bringing up a few pots at one time the season of bloom will be prolonged, depending, of course, upon how many bulbs you have to draw from.

These bulbs will grow in china bowls or glass, but you must be careful to put in plenty of drainage – broken flower-pots, or pieces of charcoal, moss, even a piece of coarse sponge will do; the object being to take up all the extra water that is not used by the plant.  In the porous flower-pot all the extra moisture evaporates through the sides of the pot or goes out at the bottom, while in the glass or china dish, none can pass off, and provision must be made for it to do so.

If you want to try growing the hyacinth in water, choose the dark glasses, as the roots are not as much exposed to light.  Fill the glasses with rain water until it touches the base of the bulb, but no higher, as it will cause the bulb to decay.

Use the best-named bulbs – single flowered do the best.  A bit of charcoal in the bottom of the glass helps to keep the water sweet, which must be changed as often as it smells impure.


The glasses should be set into a dark, cool closet until they are well filled with roots, then can be brought to the light.  The air should be kept moist as possible, and this should be the case when any plants are grown.  Hot, dry air or gas fumes are death to plants.

If you want an easily grown bulb for your hanging-pot, try the Oxalis Floribunda, with its pretty pink flowers and trefoil leaves.  Oxalis Lutea and a double variety of the same are pretty, but do not bloom with the freedom and constancy of the first named.

This is a good plant for an invalid, as it needs so little care, only asking for moderately rich earth, water and sun, and repaying by blooming the long winter through, opening its rosy blossoms day after day, and folding its trefoil leaves and rosy skirts at sunset.

Amaryllis are bulbous plants that are easily grown.  They have a period of growth and rest.  When resting they can be set in the cellar and only watered once in a great while, or just enough to keep the bulb from drying.

In potting, the bulb should be placed, at least, one-third above the soil.  The flower spike starts from the side of the neck of the bulb.

A Johnsonii is fine with large, lily-like flowers of glowing crimson, having a pure white stripe down the centre of each petal.

M.J.P. (1896, October). Bulbs for the window-garden. The Household, XXIX(10), 29. Retrieved from http://victoriantimes.us/gardening/bulbs-for-the-window-garden.

See also: The Love of the Beautiful for more Victorian Decorating with Plants and Flowers

Additional resource: Creating A Window Garden with Plant Shelves & Brackets

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