Go “Nuts” for Spring this Winter

Some people go stir-crazy waiting for Spring to come. After you read this you might decide it’s better to “go nuts” instead!

A bright floral spring display and fragrant aroma are always welcoming when snow is on the ground and old man winter keeps reminding us that he is still in charge. Having a garden studio available year round allows me to play in the dirt and fulfill my Winter desire to get my hands dirty with floor-to-ceiling “pantry” of beautifully weathered terra cotta pots and other unique vessels collected over the years. This allows me to build a winter/spring display at a moments notice.

That said, right now your local grocery store is stocking up with a wide selection of forced bulbs such as daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses, for less than $6.00 each. They sell these in unattractive plastic containers but you should never settle for displaying them in this fashion. Instead, I use the opportunity to re-pot them in a collection of colored and textured containers — even repurposing items in a new and resourceful way. Truth be told, with a little creativity, these deserving bulbs become the essential mid-winter splash of color that can brighten up any long winter day.

So let’s get started as to what you will need for this simple project:

“¢ 3-4 different potted containers of forced bulbs
“¢ A bag of assorted nuts
“¢ A container that is no deeper than 5 to 6 inches
“¢ Sheet moss
“¢ Whimsical branches such as birch or willow or anything else woody from the garden
“¢ Potting soil

Luckily most of your shopping list can be found while you’re at your grocery store, making it a one-stop shopping experience during your regular trip. Look for and select the bulbs that are the tightest (not bloomed yet) as they will last longer in your home. Your vessel can be as simple as a decorative bowl or something more elaborate, with a pedestal for example.

When you move the bulbs to the new container, do it as if transplanting a plant: the bulbs will need to be removed altogether as one unit you put in the new vessel. You will find the roots to be packed and easy to remove in one piece. Start with the tallest group of bulbs, and place those in the center of the container. Follow with the other containers of bulbs, placing the lower ones either around the border, or arranged around the first group. Once you have transferred your bulbs, backfill with some rich potting soil and secure by patting down the soil to hold the bulbs in place. Add a decorative small rock or two if you like, then place strips of moss until the soil is no longer visible.

Now let’s go nuts! Take a handful of nuts and place them in a cluster by the rim of the vessel in multiple places. (Imagine groups of rocks gathered amongst the moss.) This adds an extra organic and natural look to your arrangement. Lastly, take birch branches about 12 to 15 inches long and push them through the moss into the soil until they hold firm. Feel free to explore all of the resources in your garden and use them in unusual ways as an alternative for your birch branches if not available.

 Keep in mind that there may be no drainage in your new vessel (like the one I’ve  used), so watering should be minimal: about 1 cup no more than once a week. However, the more you water the faster they will bloom. You can place this arrangement in direct sunlight until the flowers begin to open; when that happens, take the plants out of direct sunlight to prolong the bloom.

 Giving back to the garden is possible, as forced bulbs may be planted outside in the garden when they have served their purpose in the house. After flowering, cut off the flower stems and plant the bulbs in any area of the garden that gets direct sunlight,  which will keep the foliage growing until it begins to die back. When the plant does wither it’s time to store the bulbs until next year. Tip: Don’t pull the leaves off! Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until late summer or early fall, at which time they can be planted into the garden.

Grandmother was right: doing the groceries offers many creative resources; I’ve gotten great ideas from such simple things as lemons to bulbs, from food to dvds. Today’s local grocery stores are mega food centers with many ideas waiting to bloom. So don’t wait for Spring — use this project as an excuse to “go nuts”!

And there you have it.