Sunday, November 29, 2009

Star light, star bright, drunken paper whites!

Last Sunday of the month...the months seem to be only a few days long lately...maybe it is the mixture of life that makes time whirl by...not sure though that I would want dull moments anyway.

So, I am finally starting to think winter...holidaze...chilling out even though the semester is ending, research papers coming in, finals and grades to plan. But, I am always into multi tasking...if you are reading this, I am sure you are also!!!

Anyway, this year I am trying the paper white routine. Years ago I tried them, but I was not impressed by their so-called perfume; however, the woman at the garden center at Terrain assured me that these would be fragrant. (Side note here...many of you know of my appreciation of the retailer Anthropologie...well, they have a garden center in PA...showstopper to say the least--Terrain . Maybe I can get back there and do a show and tell on that place. You can find them at if you want to take a look.)

So, in anticipation of late December bloom, I have started the sequence. They take 3 weeks.
Now, it seems simple enough...just add water...Paper whites are the original “Just Add Water” plant. While paperwhite bulbs can be planted in soil, more commonly they are grown in pots or dishes with some stones or marbles to anchor them in place and a little water. Here are directions...

1.Select a container that is about 3 - 4 inches deep (8 - 10 cm) and that has no drainage holes.

2.Spread an inch or 2 of stones, marbles or even gravel, along the bottom of the container.

3.Position your paper white bulbs, pointed end up, on top of the stone layer. Go ahead and squeeze them in. They not only look better in a large group, the tight fit will help keep them from toppling over.

4.Add another layer of stones to fill in any gaps and cover the bulbs up to their shoulders. The pointed tips should still be showing.

5.Add water so that the level just reaches the base of the bulbs. Allowing the bottom of the bulb to sit in water will stimulate growth. Covering the entire bulb with water could cause it to rot.

6.The bulbs don’t need light at this point and they prefer to be kept on the cool side, at about 65 degrees F (18 degrees C.)

7.Check your bulbs daily to see if they need more water.

8.When you see roots developing, move the container to a sunny window. The sunnier the better, but try not to let them get too warm or they’ll grow leggy.

9.Once the plants flower, they will last longer if moved out of direct sunlight, to a cool spot with indirect or diffused light. You can start pots of paper whites every couple of weeks, for a continuous display throughout the winter.

Now here is the kicker...get them drunk and they will be even better. One of my customers recommended vodka in the water, but, after doing some more research, I found these guidelines.

How to Stunt Paperwhites with Alcohol...

1.Pot your paperwhites in stones and water, as you normally would.
2.Once the roots begin growing and the green shoot on top reaches about 1-2", pour off the existing water.
3.Replace the water with a solution of 4 - 6% alcohol, as described below.
4.Continue to use the alcohol solution for future watering.
You should see results in a few days.

How to Make the Alcohol Watering Solution
•The alcohol content needs to be less than 10%, or your plants will overdose and severe growth problems will occur. Many liquors are only labeled as "proof", not percentage of alcohol. Don’t confuse the two. To determine what percentage alcohol you have, divide the proof in half, So and 86 proof bourbon is 43% alcohol.
•You can use any hard liquor (vodka, tequila, whiskey...) or rubbing alcohol. Don’t use wine or beer because they are too high in sugar.
•Check the bottle for the percentage alcohol.
•You will have to do some math to get the different concentrations of alcohol down to 4-6%.
To convert your booze to 5% alcohol, just divide the percentage alcohol by 5 and then subtract 1. That will tell you how many parts water to mix with your 1 part alcohol. Ex: 40 divided by 5 = 8: 8 minus 1 = 7... 7 parts water to 1 part alcohol.

Now, I would do the math before you start mixing in case you take a nip along the way!!!

Of course, I am going to use vintage pieces for their growing season, and I will post their progress.

How special a gift this would be for someone. Since they take 3 weeks to bloom, you can time it so that the blossoms are open for the holidays. what a neat hostess gift. Tuck a special book on gardening or a journal with the greenery.
It shows more imagination and the true spirit of the season...after they bloom, they can be kept in a cool, dark place, and then planted outside in the spring. They will take 3 years to recover, but they will bloom again in their natural habitat.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow....
- - - Robert Frost "My November Guest"


Anonymous said...

What makes the time "whirl" away is our age. It seems to me that the older we get, the faster the time goes by. At least, for the White Whale.

Just a bed of roses said...

By the looks of your title I thought I better get over here and see if Susan the Dutch Rose was having a smashing party!
Glad to see your indulgence is a paper white flower and there is no need to send the cops in to quiet the noise.
Looking forward to seeing your pretty flower grow over the few weeks. It truely is a perfect gift for those who have a little time on their hands, or one who has everything. Nothing like a fresh flower in the middle of winter.

Thanks for the tutorial...glad school is coming to an end for you...keep those bottles full!

Marie said...

Hi Susan,
That was a great post. Thanks for the instructions n Paper whites. Now I have an excuse to buy a bottle of vodka.

Noelle Garrett Designs said...

Hi Susan,

Lovely post. They would make a wonderful gift! My sister and mother have the green thumb in my family. I try but always seem to neglect them after a while. Thanks for visiting and I will keep you abreast of my wholesale happenings! I hope you had a wonderful holiday.

Warm wishes,

gail said...

Hi Susan,, I cant wait to see how these turn out. Who ever knew??? Alcohol? I so do not have a green thumb, so I will be waiting to see how your paper whites turn out :)

Thanks for visiting my blog. I am really lucky with all the cats I have that I can have a tree. They are very well behaved. At least as far as the tree is concerned, and its only the 3rd day up... I maybe talking way to early. LOL Have a great week! Have fun getting ready for the holidays.
(()) gai.

ann at greenoak said...

cant believe its time for paper whites already.......thanks for the recipe.....ann