Although they sometimes make me think of witches’ fingers as they thrust, Carrie-like, out of the ground, I never get over the thrill of seeing the first signs of life in my bulbs.
This year I finally got round to using my many sugar bowls, jugs and old jars as planters – something I have been meaning to do for years, but one way and another I always miss the moment. In fact this year, although I managed to order the hyacinth bulbs, I forgot to get any hyacinth vases, the ones which suspend the bulb above the water. In the end I discovered that peanut butter jars are the perfect substitute – if you squint a bit at the top picture you can see them in the background.
I have never forced hyacinths in this way before, and the rapidity with which the pale shoots turn intensely green once they are brought into the light is quite startling. There was another surprise too: several slugs managed to eat their way into the bulbs, and out the other side into the water below. So in amongst the sculptural swirl of pale roots, dead slugs lurk like miniature sea monsters. I can’t quite bring myself to photograph them, though I probably should – for posterity, if nothing else. Of course the girls and their friends are fascinated by them, it’s like having a ghoulish fish tank on kitchen table: tap on the vase and the dead bodies bob about.