true facts from nature

shown at the plumb in Toronto
photo credits: Alison Postma

As I have said already that it was an October day, I dare not forfeit your respect and imperil the fair name of fiction by changing the season and describing lilacs hanging over garden walls, crocuses, tulips and other flowers of spring. Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction—so we are told. Therefore it was still autumn and the leaves were still yellow and falling, if anything, a little faster than before, because it was now evening (seven twenty-three to be precise) and a breeze (from the south-west to be exact) had risen.


But now it is summer and you must suspend your disbelief, noticing that tulips are still available to those who want them. Although fiction may be most powerful when it sticks to facts, science and economics may bend them, meaning that spring flowers bring need not be limited to a season. The process of blooming a bulb (like a tulip, like a crocus) at the wrong time is called forcing.

Most tulip bulbs are sold ready to force. Place the bulbs you wish to force in a cool dim place for a dozen weeks or so. You may perhaps keep them in the vegetable drawer of a fridge or in an unheated garage. When three months have passed and the bulbs are utterly chilled, they are buried in a well-draining container, pointed side up, so their tips barely peek above the soil. They must again be kept in the bitter dark and given water once each week. When leaves appear, the bulbs may be moved out of the dark. Your forced tulips should flower two to three weeks after being brought into the light.