Saturday, December 6, 2008

Winter Blooms

After a bit of a hiatus, I am back to talk about planting paperwhite narcissus so that you can have some blooms indoors during the holiday season.

This time of year can be kind of a bummer because there's not much going on in the garden. There's certainly nothing blooming unless you are one of the fortunate few living in a warmer zone. But I like to force bulbs in containers so that I can have blooms indoors. Mostly, I do paperwhites because they are the least fussy. Just about any spring blooming bulb can be forced indoors to bloom, but many require weeks and weeks of cold, dark storage which means planning ahead of time. I've done it before with tulips and hyacinth but, frankly, you get more instant gratification from paperwhites. Plus, they are very easy to find this time of year.

I like paperwhites because they are easier than pie to get to bloom and are relatively inexpensive. You can find them for about a dollar a bulb at the high end nurseries and often much less at big box stores and supermarkets. Often times, you will see prepackaged kits that give you the little pot, soil and bulbs along with directions. Those are fine but I tend to pitch the container in favor of using my own and I also think my potting soil is better. But that's just me.

So, all you need is a few bulbs, a container (drainage holes not necessary--for once!!), soil or rocks, and water. I say "or rocks" because you really don't even need any dirt. Here we go--Step one: put soil or rocks in container. Step two: If using soil, dampen it but don't soak it. If using rocks, bring water level up to top level of rocks. Step three: place bulbs root side down on damp soil or, if using rocks, on surface of rocks so that a little water comes in contact with roots. Step four: put container indoors in any place where it will get at least medium light. Step five: keep soil damp (not wet) or water level in contact with bulb roots. Step six: wait about 3 weeks for stems to start growing and blooms to appear.

Paperwhites are aromatic. I love them but I was eavesdropping on a conversation at the nursery and a truly unfortunate woman had a husband who hated the scent so she had to come up with another solution. I'm guessing she kept the husband and chose a different bulb to grow. Maybe.

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