A Sentiment

God knew what He was doing when He sent a gentle breeze and brought a lovely butterfly to set my heart at ease. The happiness of your friendship and the gentleness of your words have touched my life in special ways and now I feel assured. Thank you for your loyalty and for reading everyday. I only hope you find things to make a happy day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Paperwhites for Springlike Pleasure on a Snowy Day

I'm going to plant my paperwhites today. It's snowing outside and I have a poinsettia in the living room, but I want something that has a fragrance blooming, something delicate and springlike. I know that some people don't like the fragrance of paperwhites, but I really don't mind it. I found an old piece of blue and gray pottery downstairs...it's a shallow planter...perfect for paperwhites. I have stones on my plant trays...so I will use those. I found this information on the internet...
A common problem with paperwhites, however, is that they often grow too tall and flop over.
Recent research conducted by the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University has found a simple and effective way to reduce stem and leaf growth of paperwhites. The "secret" is using dilute solutions of alcohol. Properly used, the result is paperwhites that are 1/3 to 1/2 shorter, with equal sized flowers that last as long as normal.
What to do
We suggest planting your paperwhite bulbs in stones, gravel, marbles, glass beads, etc. as usual. Add water as you normally would, then wait about 1 week until roots are growing, and the shoot is green and growing about 1-2" above the top of the bulb. At this point, pour off the water and replace it with a solution of 4 to 6% alcohol, made from just about any "hard" liquor. You can do the calculations to figure the dilution, but, as an example, to get a 5% solution from a 40% distilled spirit (e.g., gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila), you add 1 part of the booze to 7 parts of water. This is an 8-fold dilution yielding 5% alcohol.
Then, simply use this solution, instead of water, for further irrigation (watering) of your bulbs. It's as simple as that. The result will be a plant that is 1/3 shorter, but with flowers just as large, fragrant, and long-lasting as usual. But, the plant will be nicely proportioned and won't need support stakes, wires, or other gizmos to keep it upright. You will see results within just a few days. You can have some fun by doing a simple experiment having one bowl of bulbs given normal water and the other given the alcohol. You will see a dramatic difference, as shown in the picture.
A friend of mine did this years ago. Just before our garden club was to meet at her house...she planted her paperwhites like this. We all laughed when she told us her secret, but it worked. I'm going down to the basement now...I'll be back with pictures.

It just occurred to me that not everyone reading this will know what a paperwhite is. They are the early blooming Narcissus variety with white, powerfully fragrant, clustered flowers.We "older" gardeners sometimes take for granted that everyone knows what we do. I hope that new gardeners will try these bulbs. Paperwhites growing in the house during the winter, can bring a bit of hope for Spring.


Zoey said...

Hi Balisha,
I have never planted Paperwhites, but I always enjoy seeing them in other people's homes.

I always thought people planted them earlier -- for Christmas blooms?????

Balisha said...

I kept some in the frig...so now I planted them to enjoy now...when nothing is blooming. B

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Hi Balisha,

I wish I had ordered more paperwhites to keep them going during the winter. They will keep for quite awhile if they are cool, oh well, I'll order more next year.


One Woman's Journey said...

Beautiful - I can imagine their scent clear to my snowy woods :)