outside in: muscari makeover


The only natural joy left in mid-winter (aside from citrus fruit) are forced bulbs. Now is the time when muscari start to show up in every grocery store and corner bodgeda for less than a latte. Sometimes called grape hyacinth, they are better know as simply the only fool-proof cure for seasonal affective disorder. Winter. It ends! When you see one pot, buy two. When you see two, buy three. They each cost $5, a pittance for such pleasure.

Students, today’s lecture will talk about turning the the little blue wonders of the plant world into seasonal displays for your home, either through repotting or combined with other flowers.  Pencils sharp? Hands folded? Okay, let’s get dirty.    –Amy Merrick

The full post continues after the jump…

My corner store in New York had rows of forced muscari, hyacinth and daffodil bulbs all potted and blooming. When searching out specimens, don’t automatically reach for the pot with the most flowers in bloom, it’s already at it’s peak and the show will be over before you know it. Finding the plant with the most number of quite small buds and the healthiest foliage is the best bet for longevity.

For a simple but stunning centerpiece, carefully break up each plant and loosen the soil from the roots. Breaking some roots is inevitable, but try to be gentle.

I repotted clusters of bulbs in all white vessels like this old mini soup tureen and a larger pot from Frances Palmer. The bulbs will need to be quite closely packed to keep them upright and extra soil should be used on the top to hold them in place. The leaves may get a bit wayward and if you don’t like how wild it can look, clip off a few.

When clustered en mass, your $20 worth of bulbs turns into a million bucks. (Truth be told, I mixed a few paperwhite bulbs in the larger pots for proportions sake.) A really perfect idea for a spring wedding or party on the cheap, just be sure to credit design*sponge and Amy Merrick in every single wedding photo. These tips aren’t free, you know.

If you have nerves of steal, you can cut your precious muscari and mix them in flower arrangements. Or you can take the cowards way out and buy bundles of them from your local florist. (My way is the cowards way, pretty much always.) The little blue babies hold up like champs in a vase, eeking out at least a week if you are diligent about water changing (I’m not). Their nodding shape and bluebell color make them pretty much the ideal finishing touch to any palatte. Tiny bits of blue are revolutionary in unexpected places and take a ho-hum arrangement into the stratosphere of ecstatic perfection. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.

  1. judith b. says:

    Gorgeous muscari deliciousness, Amy! From “Living In” to “Outside In”, you are a wonder!

  2. Jen says:

    Good idea! Perfect to combat the winter dullness

  3. Melissa says:

    My very favorite spring flower! How I wish they were popping up here in Michigan!

  4. Just wonderful. The inspiring photos are perfectly matched by your witty prose. I plan to fill my home with bulbs and flowers galore this weekend–thanks for the extra push!

  5. Bec says:

    Ohhh I just LOVE your first photo. Beautiful x

  6. Meredith says:

    These pop up in our yard every spring and they’re always such a pleasant surprise.

    Do you mind my asking where the vase in the photo with the house painting is from? I’m completely in love with it.

  7. Christine says:

    Where did you find the grape hyacinths?

  8. amym says:

    Meredith- The vase with the “paper bag” top is made by Frances Palmer! http://francespalmerpottery.com/handthrown-designer-ceramic-pottery-detail.php?itemid=H2-49

    Christine- I got the muscari (aka grape hyacinth) from my corner deli. I’ve also seen them in lots of grocery stores.

  9. Suzanne says:

    Love this! Especially with mismatched pots of uniform color. Thanks for more great ideas for winter flowers :)

  10. Jennifer says:

    Lovely! You are so right about the cure for SAD.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I love muscari and what you ‘ve done with them! Wish they were at my corner deli, but the ones I started should be popping up soon–thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Catherine Todd says:

    How did you take these stunning close up pictures? These flowers look good enough to eat! If you are suffering winter-time blues or seasonal affective disorder, hop on a plane and come to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, where it’s 75 degrees year-round and wintertime bougainvillea flowering in perfect weather all year long… I love it here and wouldn’t trade the sunshine for the snow anytime. Would love to see what you’d do with the flowers down here! Love this website and your other ones.

  13. Julie strub says:

    Lovely! These grow as weeds in my backyard, you have inspired me to let them take over!

  14. Carmelle says:

    Love these flowers and your post! Do the small vessels need to have any drainage?

  15. Megan says:

    Those poppies are DREAMY. Is it spring yet?

  16. mandy says:

    Such beautiful flowers on such a drab day! Could you tell us what the other flowers in the first photo are as well?


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