Choosing your bulbs
Hyacinths, with their fresh, delicate scent, are one of the most popular bulbs for forcing, and come in a range of soft pinks, warm yellows and deep blues as well as pristine white. Scented paperwhite daffodils are another classic choice, with their starry white flowers looking elegant and cool against their deep green leaves. Look for bulbs sold as 'prepared' these will have been specially treated to make them flower early.
Timing it right
To make sure your hyacinths or daffodils will be in flower for Christmas, you'll need to plant them in late September.
Containers and compost
You can use either bulb fibre or a free-draining potting compost to plant in, but if you're using a bowl that has no drainage holes, bulb fibre is best. If you're using potting compost, mix in about one part of horticultural grit to two parts of compost to make sure it drains well. There's no need to add any sort of plant food to bulb fibre or compost, as your bulbs already contain all the nutrients they'll need to grow.
How to plant
Wet the fibre or compost first, then place a layer in the bottom of your container. Place your bulbs on top of this layer with their roots pointing downwards, making sure that they don't touch each other or the sides of the container. Fill around and over the bulbs with the bulb fibre or compost, and press down gently to firm it. If you're planting hyacinths, leave the tops of the bulbs showing. Daffodils should be covered over so that they're just below the surface.
Put the container into a black polythene bag and leave it in a cool dark place, such as an unheated shed or garage. Ideally, the temperature should be around 9°C (48°F). Check it every couple of days and water if necessary to keep the fibre or compost moist but not soggy. If you're using a container with no drainage holes, tip the container carefully onto its side for a few minutes after you've watered to let any excess water drain out. It will take several weeks for shoots to appear above the surface.
It's growing – now what?
Once the shoots are about 4-5cm (2 in) long, take the container out of the polythene bag and put it in a cool room where it will get light but not direct sunlight. This will help the shoots to green up. After a few days, once the shoots are a good green colour, move the container into a sunny spot in a warm room. Keep it watered and out of draughts, and you should soon have a bowlful of beautiful winter flowers to brighten your days.