Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus)

31 01 2011

I force paperwhite bulbs every year and always forget about their scent—when they begin to bloom and I haven’t noticed yet, I walk around the kitchen and living room and ask myself, “what is that smell?” You’d think I’d learn! I kind of have a love/hate relationship with the smell. It’s okay when you get the first whiff of it, but I made the mistake of moving them from their usual place in the kitchen (which I rarely inhabit) to a table in the living room (where you’ll find me if I’m not in my studio). And I’ve had a mild headache ever since doing so. Wonder why? I’m tempted to call it a day (or a bloom) and pitch them, but some blooms haven’t opened yet and I just can’t bring myself to interrupt the blooming process, obsessive gardener that I am.

I just read a post on Margaret Roach’s blog, awaytogarden.com, about paperwhites and the trick to keeping them from flopping over (gin, vodka or rubbing alcohol). She also mentions that adding a few drops of bleach might limit the strong scent (if you find the scent offensive, that is). Margaret was the first garden editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine. Go check out her blog—it’s wonderful!

I also learned something from the reader comments: Brent of Brent & Becky’s Bulbs says that the Israeli hybrids are the ones that “stink.” Most likely mine are the ‘Ziva’ hybrid that dominate the market for forced bulbs. He recommends one of the newer Israeli introductions, ‘Inbal,’ which has a nice fragrance. I’ll look for that hybrid in their catalog—but it’s still so convenient to get my $5-after-Christmas-sale-deal at Target, complete with the pot and growing mix—despite the stinkiness. I’ll just keep them in the kitchen again next year.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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4 responses

31 01 2011
Barbara Kelley

Funny that gin and vodka keep paperwhites from flopping over — gin and vodka have the opposite effect on me!

31 01 2011
cindydyer

We know that, woman who carries a flask with her to parties! 😉

1 02 2011
thekingoftexas

I recognized that plant immediately as a narcissus papyraceus, but my comment is not on your photo. It’s on the comment made by Barbara Kelley, above—now that’s funny—wish I had said it!

5 02 2011
sue

Maybe not plant so many next year and it will lessen the strength of the smell?

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