In Anxious People, author Fredrik Backman writes, “She could see winter making itself comfortable across the town. She liked the silence of this time of year but had never appreciated its smugness. When the snow arrives autumn has already done all the work, taking care of all the leaves and carefully sweeping summer away from people’s memories. All winter had to do was roll in with a bit of freezing weather and take all the credit, like a man who’s spent twenty minutes next to a barbeque but has never served a full meal in his life…”

Winter, indeed… It’s yet to arrive, but it’s surely on its way and that means it’s time to “force” a bulb or two or more. The payoff: Sweet smelling flowers in your home come January/February to counter the cold and early darkening skies.

And it only takes a few minutes, no soil required.


  • Forcing-friendly bulbs on sale in supermarkets and gardening centers, such as narcissi and hyacinths.
  • Small pebbles/polished stones and charcoal bits, both available in garden centers.
  • Empty containers, such as coffee cans, glass bowls, Ball jars, plastic containers, and specially crafted hyacinth vase glassware often found in garden centers but also at Amazon.
  • Water
  • A large box with a lid/cover.


  1. Fill the bottom of your container with pebbles or polished stones.
  2. Sprinkle with pieces of charcoal to keep the water fresh.
  3. Gently nestle the bulb(s), root side down, onto the pebbles.
  4. Add enough water to cover a little less than ½ of each bulb.


  1. Place the filled container(s) in a large box and cover it.
  2. Place it in a cool spot like the garage or basement.
  3. Add water about once a week as needed.

About 8 weeks or so later, the bulbs will sprout. Once they’re about 2” tall, take the containers into the house. For a day or two, place them out of direct sunlight to give them time to rest and warm up.

Then they’re off to a sunny spot. The sprouts will shoot up and bloom into sweet-smelling flowers. A magic trick if ever there were one.

With happy holiday wishes, Carol