Antique Glass Hyacinth Vases  
  all about antique hyacinth bulb rooting forcing jars glasses vases  
"In the most confined streets of London the Hyacinth may be seen blooming as magnificently as if surrounded by all the advantages of the open country, and displaying ungrudgingly for the delight of its city cultivators charms which most other plants, even though indigenous to our own soil, cannot be induced to reveal."
(Barr and Sugden's Floral Guide to Winter and Spring Gardening, 1862)



Archive 2009-2010


Archive 2010-2011


Vase Shapes and Sizes


More Pics and Info


Glass under UV Light


How to force hyacinths and which varieties to use


Forcing Other Bulbs




ebay News


Plans for 2011


About Me


Forcing Hyacinths and Other Spring Bulbs in Antique Vases


Welcome to my site about antique hyacinth vases. For those new to the subject, they are vases which hold a hyacinth bulb above water so that the hyacinth can be grown indoors, or "forced" into flower, before its normal flowering time outside. If started early enough and if the bulbs are properly prepared, the hyacinths can be forced into flower for Christmas. Hyacinth vases were first used in the Georgian period but became very popular in Victorian times. They have enjoyed variations in popularity ever since.

Right, hyacinths forced indoors in antique glass hyacinth vases.


Forcing Hyacinths for Christmas 2009

this is the archive of my blog for the forcing season August 2009 to Spring 2010

for the next year see Archive2010-2011

for the current year see 2011-2012 at garden withindoors


my latest updates are now at my new site, Garden Withindoors

slowly but surely I'm moving the content from here to there

  July 2010

I have calculated the average price on ebay of the tall vases (£14) and the squat bulbous vases (£12) over the past year. I will be adding more detail of the individual vase prices those averages are based on.

I ordered my bulbs last month from Bloms Bulbs again. They gave me some good advice about improving my forcing so I will post that next month when I really get ready to start off my bulbs.

After last year I decided I would label each vase with the variety of hyacinth, date started, date into light and date of full bloom. I will post a pic of my label when I print them. Anyone else do that? (or am I the only one so obsessed with forcing my hyacinths?!)

I have an actual photo of George Tye (!) which I found at the RHS library. When I figure out what I am going to do with it - and all the other images and info I researched there, I will post it here.


What to do with the vases out of season?

If, like me, you have more than a few hyacinth vases, you need to decide what to do with them out of season, basically March to August. Less is more. Having just a few on display, and the rest packed away, means they aren't cluttering up the house and it will be a novelty to have them out when they're unpacked end of August/beginning of September.


This Victorian bulb catalogue (Barr and Sugden, 1870) shows how the Tye hyacinth vases can be used as normal flower vases when not being used for forcing hyacinth bulbs. Personally I've never done that and for some reason it doesn't appeal. Do let us know what you do with yours.

19 May 2010 Garden Within Doors exhibit at the Geffrye Museum

Aside from the auricula theatre in the garden, what a disappointment. As someone keenly interested in the Victorian "garden withindoors" this exhibit fell far short. Very very little about forcing bulbs. Obviously the Victorians loved forcing hyacinths. Look at all the extant glass hyacinth vases from the 19th and early 20th century. Yet they had only two on display, one of which had no description or mention whatsoever. Not that it was very exciting. It was a squat amber one like those below. The one they did describe was the art nouveau style in clear glass with green applications. And where are the fabulous Victorian bulb catalogues that featured forcing vases? (see a couple examples below)

I have recently read both Potted History (see below) and Flora Domestica so I'm quite interested in the history of indoor plants and have picked up *some* knowledge on the subject, so I was disappointed the Geffrye made such glaring errors as having a terracotta clay pot (with artificial hyacinth bulbs) on the fire grate in one of their period rooms: 1. they would never have had an outdoor pot like that indoors (they used ceramic cache-pots to "cache" or hide the rougher pots inside) and 2. they didn't put them on the fire grate. The exhibit mentioned bough pots placed in front of the fireplace in summer so why did they just stick a bunch of (artificial) flowers in the fire grate without the pot?

The "hyacinth vase" being sold in the shop is not a hyacinth vase at all. The cup is too small to hold a hyacinth bulb. And at £6 it's overpriced and obviously poor quality. One I looked at in the shop already had a chip on the rim.

On the plus side the ceramic flower bricks and bulb pots were interesting and the tour of the almshouse well worthwhile.


May 2010

Green Bow Antiques at The Swan, Tetsworth

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of hyacinth vases I saw at this antique shop yesterday. It is rare for a shop to have any, let alone the 18 on sale here. The prices (ranging from 22 to 44 pounds) were a bit high but I guess they are in a shop with overheads rather than on ebay. (nb there is some overlap with the pictures as I wanted to fit them all in)

ebay prices

Just after I said prices were going mad on ebay some vases are not selling at all. I guess it's the wrong time of year. Now that the weather is better people are thinking about their flowers outdoors and not their "garden withindoors". I think the rare vases are still commanding high prices but the more common vases are a bit overpriced and buyers are not willing to pay those prices.

Why would someone put a vase up for £52 after it didn't sell at 9.99?


April 2010

More about ebay prices

As noted before if a vase is called a "hyacinth vase" the price automatically increases. Some sellers don't know much about the vase they're selling so there's scope there for finding a bargain - a hyacinth vase that's just described as a "vase" but I've noticed recently that ebayers are buying these inexpensive vases and reselling them described properly as "hyacinth vases", sometimes days later, so it's purely a business transaction for profit.


I finally found out *something* about this vase. It's marked on the bottom "glassroots" (see the More Pics and Info page for images). I did not know anything else about it until someone just gave me a copy of the BBC Home and Antiques magazine article (from 2002) about Margaret Howdle, her company Glassroots, her love of hyacinth vases and her collection of them. She started Glassroots and produced bulb vases: amaryllis, hyacinth and crocus. Sadly I also found out that she passed away last year.

If I can get hold of a decent copy of the article in colour (I currently only have a black and white one) I will post it here for you all to enjoy.


Vase Prices March 2010

If you use ebay you may have noticed that hyacinth vase prices there have gone a bit mad recently. I have certainly found it impossible to buy vases. I have been keeping track of prices and will add a page about prices in the next few weeks. I wanted to show some alternatives to buying expensive vases. On the left are a selection of glassware eminently suitable to use for forcing bulbs but none sold as a "hyacinth vase" which seems to automatically increase the price.

The red vase at the front was 50p, the pair of globe shaped vases was 99p, the "vase" behind the red one is a sweet jar I bought with rock on Hayling Island, the tall blue vase was 99p, the etched vase on the right at the back was £1.99. I can't remember the price of the pink "posy".

Please contact me if you can contribute any info for my price guide (julie at, thanks.


Planting Bulbs After Forcing March 2010

I've been a very bad girl (as Beyonce would say). I had good intentions to plant my bulbs sooner but I didn't. I was so organised in my forcing but I fell down on the final step. I finally planted the bulbs yesterday. Some may well fail but bulbs are magical things and I'm sure some will bloom next year and some probably the year after.

Below are some I planted in previous years - with the same poor treatment - and they've still bloomed this year, maybe not as big as they did the first year in the vase but there's life in them yet! So if you haven't planted yours yet, it's not too late.



Heavy Amber Vase

This is my latest purchase (ok I found the odd vase on ebay I could afford). It's fascinating because it's so heavy. I think it's the heaviest vintage vase I have. It's mold-blown; you can see the seam there. I do wonder if it's one of the earliest vases made with this method and they needed to make it as heavy as possible because they didn't know if it would work? I'm just guessing here. If anyone knows anything more, please get in touch.

This is the base of the vase above. I don't think I've seen this circular pattern on a vase base before. Have you?

The Sainsburys bulb packs were crap as any sensible person would suspect but I got a bit silly about snapping up any bulb forcing things last Autumn. As you can see below they aren't in bloom and probably never will be. I had to banish them outside as they all seemed to be crawling with little bugs. I got 1 tulip and 2 hyacinths out of the crate on the right with the handles but no flowers from the others. I had the same bug problem with the crocuses in pots but not the hyacinths in pots. I still have more to learn about forcing indoors. I will continue the research!


30 January 2010

Being a little warmer now (on and off) I'm going to try planting the bulbs with spent flowers in the garden. I just hope I have room for them all.

I have been cleaning out my vases. The longer the water is in the vase the more deposits on the glass so I'm sure it helps to rinse and dry them as soon as possible. I have added some info about cleaning vases to the FAQ page.

I'm thinking about next year, actually later this year, and what varieties worked best this time and what I want to force next time. What bulbs did you like best that you forced?

When it's snowing outside I find it even more amazing that these beautiful flowers are in bloom.

Recent updates to this site include vase sizes at the Vase Shapes and Sizes page and more about forcing bulbs other than hyacinths, such as crocus and lily of the valley, please see the Forcing Other Bulbs page.

I am also compiling some Frequently Asked Questions at the FAQs page. Please send me your questions if you have any (julie at

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a cushion placed on a table must be in want of a cat to sit upon it.
  BBC weather was wrong, as usual, and we have sun this New Year's Day morning (at least in north London) so I've taken some pics of the bulb varieties and how each is doing. Pussycat was curious (I have never captured his black velvety fur on camera successfully but he is exquisitely beautiful). I realized I didn't actually know how tall each type of hyacinth vase was so I've measured the vases and added sizes to the Vase Shapes page.

Tye Hyacinth Vase needing support

You can see why Mr Tye designed supports for the flower to accompany his vases. I'm cheating by leaning the flower against the window, otherwise it would be flopping over but that Delft blue hyacinth is especially tall, so much taller than the Woodstock flowers next to it. (Pussycat's one white whisker shows up well in this pic.)


27 December 2009

A couple days make all the difference. All of a sudden I seem to have a number of hyacinths in bloom and the amaryllis suddenly bloomed just in time for Christmas. I also brought up the next set of vases from the cellar that were ready to come out into the light. I've never tried it myself but I have read that you can take pot grown hyacinth bulbs, rinse off the soil and put them into a forcing vase with water so if you got any vases too late to start bulbs in September you could try that method now.

Hyacinths in forcing vases in bloom for Christmas.
Amaryllis in forcing vases in bloom for Christmas.
Hyacinth bulbs ready to come into the heat and light after their period in the dark (Dec 24th) above and just a few days later (Dec 30th). They've grown very quickly, at least doubling in height.

Bulbous Roots 1810

Even while under stress trying to do some last minute Christmas shopping I found something hyacinth vase related! This image featured on some wrapping paper in Fortnum and Mason (Regency Red from I've never seen anything like it. I don't even know what it is exactly. The flower appears to be a hyacinth although the leaves and bulb are not 100 percent accurate and the frame holding the bulb (in water?) is nothing I've seen. and what is the greenery at the bottom? More questions than answers but if you know anything about this, please let me know. All I do know is that it's a hyacinth forced into bloom - in 1810 if the date is accurate.


Potted History by Catherine Horwood

I recently read a wonderful book about the "garden within doores" called Potted History by Catherine Horwood which includes bulb forcing in the 18th and 19th centuries. I was fascinated to see two images she featured of hyacinth forcing vases included in contemporary paintings which I'd never seen before. I've only shown two thumbnails here. If you want to see larger versions, please buy her book.

Spode Hyacinth Vase

Spode Hyacinth Vase

I also found a pic of a Spode hyacinth vase in Robert Copeland's ceramics book from Shire (available on Amazon I believe). I've never seen a ceramic vase like this before. (I'm still learning about photography but the over-exposure is down to the pic in the book. It's viewable on Amazon for comparison.)

Spode Hyacinth Vase
  8 December 2009

Some of my bulbs are ready to come out of the cellar into the light.

The vases and containers above are on their way into the house.

The vases below need more time in the dark cellar.

Even bulbs I started at the same time are at quite different stages of development.

I've left these vases in the fridge (left) as they have not developed much at all so far.
  I've taken some vases out of the fridge (those on the right) if the spike was out of the bulb but I will keep them in the cellar until the flower is out of the bulb.

Sainsburys Garden Blooms Reviews

I do like to see what new bulb forcing products are on sale every autumn. These 3 planters caught my eye as soon as they were put out at my local Sainsburys in Camden Town so I bought them before they got shop worn. If I hadn't been in such a hurry I could have bought them on sale half-price recently. If you also bought any of these, do let me know how they worked for you.


Luxury bulb crate, £19.99

It is difficult to have 4 different bulbs in the same container, all of which need different times in the dark. The alliums grew too quickly and got "leggy". I don't know if they'll bloom. The crocus appear to have good spikes now but I don't see the hyacinths or tulips yet but thought I'd better bring it into the light or the alliums might wilt and die (as the anemones did, see below). The crate is wood without a liner. Next year I will line it with plastic.




Miniature daffodil collection, £12.99

These are growing well and judging from my past success with narcissi I think they will bloom okay, also helped by all being the same type of bulb. Unfortunately the pots did not come with any saucers so I've had to add my own but there wasn't enough room so one pot is sitting higher than the others.


Windowsill bulb collection, £14.99

The anemones started growing immediately but without any light they've died now even though the tulips are only just ready to come out of the dark and no sign at all of the muscari. The muscari I tried to force last year hardly bloomed - lots of leggy leaves and no flowers. This mix obviously doesn't work very well. Also, being wood it leaked so I've lined it myself with plastic.


Where to buy glass

For my final shopping trip checking out antique shops and markets in London I went to the antiques market in Covent Garden's Jubilee Hall yesterday (7-12-2009; it's held on Mondays). Although it was better than Spitalfields and did have *some* glass there were no hyacinth vases and nothing much of interest to me. I guess nothing can beat the National Glass Fairs ( if you want glass!


9 December 2009

These amaryllis are growing so fast. In previous years they bloomed too soon before Christmas so this year I thought I'd try to be disciplined and not start them until 5 or 6 weeks before Christmas. You can see they grow incredibly quickly once they start.


29 November 2009

Forcing Amaryllis

I love forcing amaryllis in water, as well as hyacinths.

Amaryllis Forcing Vases

The vase in the center was sold as an amaryllis vase with a bulb. The 4 on either side are from Ikea and although not specifically sold as bulb vases, they work very well.

At a local garden centre I saw some hyacinth bulbs (forced in soil) for sale. This time of year I am always awed by the industrial scale of the Dutch bulb industry. It hardly seems worth it to order my bulbs in June and force them myself when you can buy them so cheaply and perfectly grown for Christmas. It mocks my efforts :(


Forcing Crocus

I see crocus forcing vases for sale but have NEVER seen a successful example. Please let me know if you have. I still like forcing the bulbs in soil in pots, such as the bowl on the right.

Crocus Bowl
12 November 2009
  If it's Thursday it must be the antiques market at Spitalfields. I had to check it out but it was very disappointing, mostly rubbish and not what I would call "antiques" and very little glass, certainly no hyacinth vases (or leech jars). I'm finding that at so many markets. I guess glass is that much more difficult to pack up and transport and other "antiques" are easier to set up and not so fragile.
9 November 2009
Hyacinth Vases
  I'd heard about an antiques shop which had bulb vases so of course I went to check it out. I can confirm Anno Domini at 66 Pimlico Rd has a number of hyacinth vases including a genuine Tye purple vase with gilding for £125. They also had some other tall churn vases for £52 each including one exquisite cobalt blue.

I was tempted but I've bought too many on ebay! including the pale green squat vase pictured above left. I am intrigued as the shape is the typical one but the colour is not so I am wondering if this is a reproduction.

I did recently go to the famous Bermondsey market (held Friday mornings) but there was very little glass and no bulb vases. The monthly Hampstead antiques market was also disappointing but one of the antique shops there had a pair of Loetz vases which I think were for bulbs but the price was prohibitive. I also checked out Columbia Rd. Although they have a few shops selling antique and modern house and garden associated items there were no bulb vases of any kind, new or old.


12 October 2009

After going to Portobello Rd over the summer I decided to check out some other sources of antique glass in London so on Saturday I started with Camden Passage in Islington. Although they don't have many stalls/shops selling glass I did buy this beautiful Victorian Bristol cobalt blue vase with snapped off pontil for a bargain price. I haven't mentioned prices so far on this web site. They vary enormously so it's difficult to say what particular vases are worth but if anyone wants to discuss prices, please get in touch.

I also bought this Victorian hand-blown vase with polished pontil on ebay for a bargain price. Combine these with the 2 leech pots I bought and I had a good week for finding interesting antique glass. In coming weeks I'm going to check out Covent Garden, Spitalfields, Bermondsey, Hampstead and a few other markets. I will report back what I find. If anyone wants to share any interesting finds or sources of antique glass, whether shops, markets or web sites, please get in touch.

26 September 2009

I have added a Drupal section to my web site, click on Collectors Community (on the left) to access it. It will make it easier for anyone to share their ideas, opinions, comments, pictures, etc.


Even though I love antique vases I like to see what new ones are available. I saw these zinc ones at Petersham Nursersies. I'm not even sure they are hyacinth forcing vases, in spite of their shape. I'd be intrigued to see if they even hold water. If they are hyacinth forcing vases why did they put them on display with the daffodils?

Speaking of forcing, even though I only started my bulbs a week or so ago, they have started rooting - so exciting.

In researching hyacinth vases in the 19th century I have found some fascinating images and information, a few examples are below. I will be updating my history page in the coming weeks.

September 2009

Starting Bulbs

It's time to start your bulbs if you them to be ready for Christmas.


August 2009

National Collection of Hyacinths

I went recently to an Open Day at Alan Shipp's National Collection of hyacinths in Waterbeach where he was selling bulbs. I'm hoping to organise a display of hyacinth vases there in March next year when he's having his annual open weekend when the hyacinths will be in bloom. If you'd like to attend, maybe display some of your vases or just see some of other collectors' vases, please get in touch.


Antique Glass Under UV Light

I have finally found a UV light with which to photograph my vases. To see all those vases that reacted under UV light, select the link Glass under UV Light, left.



I bought a fantastic book recently from Aphrohead Books who sell through Amazon (they seem to specialise in foreign language books): Hyazinthengläser by Joachim Henle. It's in German but the pictures are fabulous. He covers hyacinth vases from the beginning of bulb vases in the 1600s right up to today. I highly recommend it, even if you can't read German. I hope to have a friend translate it for me but I am still enjoying the photos and what I can make out of the language. If we could ever get a collectors meeting arranged people could look at it there.


A US collector's collection

Collector Samuel Earle writes from New York City. I asked him about collecting hyacinth vases there. "I bought my first vase about 25 years ago at an antique show in NYC. I see them occasionally in shops here. They are expensive - around 250 to 350 dollars. Several years ago I discovered ebay. Unfortunately I have become one of their best customers. I usually buy from the UK. The photo (below) represents a very small portion of my collection. They are all from the UK except the red and dark green one which were bought from ebay in the US. They were all reasonable - around 50 dollars, except the red one which was about 250. You probably know red ones and ones made in the US, eg Sandwich, etc, are the rarest. I love the different colors and shapes. I love the air bubbles, uneven tops and rough bottoms. I only buy Victorian or Georgian era. The last time I was in the UK I went in a couple of shops and found them very expensive, like NYC."

Some of Samuel's vases
  Home and Antiques magazine feature on hyacinth vases

Someone on ebay mentioned the August issue of BBC's Home and Antiques magazine having a 1 page feature on hyacinth vases so of course I ran out to buy that. I must say I don't agree with it saying that green was the most popular colour in the 19th cenury. I would say cobalt blue was. Also the stockist mentioned (who I'd never heard of) has a very out of date web site and quotes extremely high prices.


18 July 2009

Portobello Rd


I use ebay so much I decided I needed a change. I wanted to branch out a bit and see some vases for sale in London in person so this morning I hit Portobello Rd. I was not disappointed. In fact, it was a great morning and I met some wonderful people. I can recommend The Gallery at 113 Portobello Rd. The stallholders there included Vivien Brown who had a number of hyacinth vases for sale. It was difficult to choose but I bought the amber one above which is a shape I've seen before but did not have in my collection. It is hand-blown and has a snapped off pontil. I love heavy period glass so the leech pot also caught my eye. The dealer said it was a vase. I have another of the same shape and a darker shade of blue but of a much smaller size. I'm pretty sure they're both leech pots. The small one was sold to me on ebay as a salt liner. I don't mind. It's beautiful and there's another exactly like it in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Anything in cobalt blue period glass will get my attention.

Manorcroft Antiques, also at 113 Portobello Rd, had a number of hyacinth vases for sale, as did Deborah at Cranborne Antiques and dealers at stalls 7A and 33A. One had a green Tye vase with a very worn gold design but alas, it had a chip on the rim. Another dealer was Kand G Collectibles at Admiral Vernon arcade at 141 Portobello Rd. She had 4 hyacinth vases, including 2 frilled edge ones.

Selection of Vintage and Modern Hyacinth Vases Out of Season

last updated 6 December 2011

All content Copyright Julie Berk (julie at

Please do not copy any text or images without permission.

hyacinth vase panorama