Goodbye, Paperwhites!

11 02 2011

Goodbye, Paperwhites. See you next year! Alas (?), my Paperwhites have finally withered and are now just an (odorific) memory. I enjoyed them while they were in full bloom (despite the incessant little headache they created).

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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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.





Amaryllis closeup

10 01 2011

I also photographed the Amaryllis blooms against the living room wall with a bit more available window light. It’s a decent shot, but I prefer the drama of the black background.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





In bloom today: Amaryllis

9 01 2011

My friend Karen gave me this Amaryllis plant a few months ago and it is almost completely in bloom today (three out of five blossoms have opened!). Amaryllis bulbs originated in the Andes mountains of South America. The bulbs are tender, so they can only be grown outdoors in Zones 9-11. They are one of the easiest bulbs to force indoors. The term ‘forcing’ refers to inducing a plant to grow (shoot, leaf and flower) ahead of its natural schedule and out of its natural environment.

The plant needs a well-lit and warm place to grow, but after the buds begin to open, move the plant to a cool and shady location to keep the blooms longer. When the flowers begin to wilt, cut them off at the top of the stalk. Cut the stalk just above the bulb when it begins to droop. Water and fertilize as normal until the leaves turn yellow, then cut the leaves back two inches from the top of the bulb. Remove the bulb and store in a cool dark place for a minimum of 6-8 weeks. You can repot the bulb after that and begin the whole (bloomin’) process all over again!

I took advantage of Target’s after-Christmas 75% off sale and have added another Amaryllis plant to the kitchen window sill (not blooming yet) and two pots with Paper White Narcissus bulbs. I grew Paper Whites two years ago and learned quite a bit about the process. My favorite Narcissus photograph and that experience can be seen on my blog here

Paper White stalks can get quite leggy and often require staking. I just learned how alcohol (vodka, tequila, whiskey or rubbing alcohol) can keep Paper Whites from falling over here.  

Isn’t it ironic that alcohol makes people fall over but plants stay upright?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.