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Forcing hyacinth bulbs for Easter

Did Easter sneak up on you this year? Being on March 31 [this post originated in 2013], it is earlier than usual.
As a florist, we don’t have the luxury of being surprised by the calendar. Planning and logistics are the lifeblood of our business; they are fundamental to giving our customers high-quality products and excellent service.
Easter is a great example of this.
While most flowers today are grown in South America, Royer’s continues to grow its own hyacinths. Forcing the bulbs (as this is called, essentially getting them to grow on our timetable), is a family tradition that dates back 50 years or more.
As with every holiday, timing is of the essence when it comes to Easter hyacinths.
The process actually began in June, when we ordered some 13,000 hyacinth bulbs from a wholesaler in Holland. In October, a two-person Royer’s team planted the bulbs in pots, which were placed in a refrigerated trailer (set at 40 degrees) at our corporate complex in Lebanon.
The goal was to get the bulbs to grow, but just a little bit. In December, when most people were running around getting ready for Christmas (Royer’s included!), the bulbs were sufficiently rooted such that we could lower the trailer temperature to 34 degrees. At that temperature, the bulbs are more or less in a state of suspended animation.
Soon after Valentine’s Day, we began to transfer the pots into a greenhouse. We gradually increased the temperature so as not to shock the bulbs and to mimic what occurs in nature as winter turns to spring.
The bulbs emerge from the trailer as small, yellowish plants just breaking through the soil. Within days, sunlight turns the plant green and it starts to grow. Soon, the flower blooms: pinks take a few days longer than blues and whites.
We have to be careful, though, because if the plants get too much indirect sun, they begin to stretch for light. In no time, they can get too tall and lanky – and customers won’t want them. Sometimes we have to cover them in black plastic to keep that from happening.
When Easter is early as it is this year, temperatures outside tend to be colder. As a result, it takes longer to “force” the bulbs. Of course, we know this going in and factor it into our schedule.
We want the hyacinths to reach 10 to 12 inches in height, at which point they are ready to be sold in pots and decorated baskets.
Don’t worry if Easter snuck up on you. Our stores will be ready when you are, filled with beautiful, colorful hyacinths and other Easter plants and arrangements.
Just as we planned it.

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