When I move through the house my nose catches the faint perfumey scent of these tazetta narcissa and my eyes are stopped by the bright yellow and orange. In September I sent away to John Scheepers, Inc. for the dry papery bulbs. They spent October, November, and December in the bottom of the refrigerator just chillin’. Sometime in January when I longed to see nubbins of green, I pulled them out and planted them in a bowl of pebbles. From then on, all I did was keep the water level even with the bottom of the bulbs. Roots emerged and probed downward while the green shoots went up. Buds formed at the tops of stems and flowers opened in front of my eyes. I’m so happy to see them.

Bulbs in winter are one of my little indulgences to help when winter seems too long and colorless. The garden is buried in snow, and I’m always ready for the rising of new life long before it actually appears. Experience has taught me to pay a little more for quality bulbs–they grow reliably. “Forcing” bulbs to bloom this way is an old Dutch tradition, and you can still find vintage “forcing glasses”–special vases that narrow then flare at the top to hold the bulb above water. I grow hyacinths this way. They’re easy, and soon waxy blossoms in bright crayola colors send an almost overpowering fragrance into the room. Other easy bulbs are narcissa and crocus. I’ve also grown miniature iris in pots of soil. When the bulbs finish blooming I cut off the flower stalks and plant in potting soil until spring comes and the ground thaws enough to plant the bulbs outside. So I enjoy the flowers in the house one season, and then again outside many subsequent springs.

There are small signs that the season is turning: the song sparrow that greets morning with longer and longer melodies; the swelling of pussywillows; stronger sunlight. There has been color all winter, cool and subtle, but the time for brightening approaches.

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