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Tulips on winter windowsills

On your windowsill you can have bowls of fragrant paperwhites, tiny daffodils , freesia perfuming the entire house, and pots of tulips - weeks before the arrival of spring.

Forcing these bulbs is simply a matter of chilling the plants or bulbs just long enough to allow them the necessary period of winter dormancy, which ranges from 10 to 16 weeks.

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One of the easiest bulbs to force is the paperwhite narcissus, which takes very little encouragement to bloom. Just set the bulbs in a bowl of pebbles and fill with water till it reaches the base of the bulbs. Place on a sunny windowsill in a cool room and, very important, be sure to maintain the water level.

When you first notice the roots or green shoots coming from the bulbs, you may move them to a warmer location. Remember, the bulbs are very tender and should never be put outdoors. Too, do not expect them to bloom a second season.

Hardier bulbs require a longer period of cold storage before forcing, among them: tulips, crocus, and freesia. After they have bloomed, however, they may be planted outdoors and you should have flowers from them the following year.

If you follow the simple rules - first, cold storage, then planting in pebbles, adding water, keeping the bulbs in a cool room until they start to bloom, and finally, moving them wherever you want them - you should have no trouble.

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