Grow a (Paper) White Christmas

Tis the season to start your paperwhites!  Fragrant and easy to grow, Narcissus tazetta commonly known as “paperwhites” are bulbs that are native to warmer climates and grow easily without a chilling period.  This classic indoor bulb is intensely fragrant with elegant star-shaped clusters of white flowers that are popular at holiday time. Once planted, watered and placed in a warm spot they will bloom within 4 to 6 weeks. I always plant mine the first week in November and then plant another group in a few weeks to stage a longer period of bloom and color all season long.

Paperwhites lend themselves to holiday decorating because they can be planted in unusual containers to fit a theme such as teacups and glass bowls. Cluster potted groupings on a mantle or mixed into centerpieces among greenery, berries and bows for a living and fragrant element to your holiday décor.

How to plant:

Gather supplies-

-4 to 6 inch round, 4 inch deep pot. Use terra-cotta or any decorative bowl; just make sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom.

Bulb Beauty- Cobalt beach glass in a clear pot and small chip green glass in a champagne glass.

-3 to 5 Paperwhite bulbs (the most common variety is sold as Paperwhite “Ziva”) Choose bulbs that are firm, with rich brown papery, outside layers. A bit of green stem showing is OK.

-White rock chips or try a touch of creativity by using beach glass, marbles. Use anything heavy enough to keep the bulbs upright.

How to:

In the bottom of the pot, place at least two inches of the base material (rock or glass, etc.). Depending on the size and style of the pot, you may need to go deeper.The bulbs top should set just below the rim of the pot.  Set the bulbs firmly on top of the base; roots down and stem up. A 4 inch pot will hold 3 bulbs and a  6 inch pot holds 5 bulbs. Loosely fill the pot with remaining base material to the rim.  About half of the bulb should be exposed. Water well and place in a warm spot,  away from direct sunlight,  until green shoots emerge to about 4 inches.

Bring the pot into a sunny spot and keep evenly watered. Do not over-water. The blooms will last longer if kept in a cooler area of the home.

Give them a holiday spirit!

Paperwhites tend to get tipsy. The problem is,  the slender stems grow tall with all of the flower weight at the top, making the stems bend and fall over.

Researchers with the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University have remedied a solution to this top-heavy blooms; alcohol. When paperwhite bulbs are grown in a diluted solution of alcohol, the plants reach a height of up to 1/2 their normal growth yet the flower size is not affected and they bloom just as long. The water/alcohol stress on the plants is just enough to stunt their growth, let’s just say it Continue reading “Grow a (Paper) White Christmas”

Puzzle Pieces

” Who knows just how creative and eco-friendly you can be? You’re only limited by your imagination–and ambition…   I am not saying we must all run out to the salvage yards, scooping up bits and pieces to save them from the landfill. Oh heck, yes I am! Some of the most creative uses of garden art were rescues from such places.”  Joe Lamp’l , The Green Gardener’s guide.

Recycled windows=cool greenhouse!

One thing my mom always says…creating a display garden at the Northwest Flower and Garden show is easier when you build as much as you can ahead of time. It is starting to become like a big puzzle. We build, dismantle and then put the pieces back together at the show.  Build day today just before the rain set in.

Plastic bottles from Gig Harbor High, getting ready for show time!

Count down to building in the convention center…7 days!!!

In the Garden with Courtney

A dance partner at the Huntington Botanical Garden

Well then, let’s get to it! Hi there, I’m Courtney Goetz. I’m a seventeen year old senior attending Gig Harbor High School, and as you know, a display garden designer this year at the Northwest Flower and Garden show.

I think the best way to introduce myself is telling you how I got into gardening.

     Growing up on the potato farm in Idaho, there was never a time of boredom. Being seven years old, most of what I did was make mud pies on Grandma’s porch, play on the farm equipment, and have sprinkler fights or pick off the buds on the Lilac bushes to throw at my older sisters (sorry Mom, never knew  they actually had a purpose on the plant.) We had a 460 acre farm, and I picked random places to explore, build forts on and claim as my own. Along with adventures, I helped my mom in the greenhouse and in the flower fields not as a chore, but just because it was something fun to do. We even got a field trip of my kindergarten class to come out to the farm and learn about plants and take home a planted sunflower seed.

         After we moved from Idaho up to Washington, our play space was reduced to a claustrophobic amount. But, there still was an acre of unexplored and very native vegetation, and if I could crawl through bushes to it, it was mine. I can think of three places that I claimed.

Two different spots were in the front yard with tall trees, Salal, Huckleberries and a stick fort with tree stump chairs. Another spot was in the backyard: it was my hide-and-seek spot. I’d crawl about 12 feet into the thick of bushes and clear out a tiny space only I could fit in.

I used it so much the dirt became quite comfy, and no one could ever find me because they’d give up so easily. 🙂

     Seven years later, most of my evidence is gone or cleared away. But as we cleared away bushes, the forest of native plants changed to perennials and yard maintenance. I was gardening, whether I liked it or not. Don’t worry, most of the time I did. My love for gardening matured from exploring stick forts to having flower beds and cutting lavender.

Courtney Cosmos!

     The fascination of gardening with kids is being able to see the effects of their effort with a touch of unknown science, e.g. planting a seed and watching it grow into a sunflower. My fascination was no different than normal, I just believe it was prolonged exposure to it. I was lucky to be a part of my mom’s work sometimes because I knew not many my age had the opportunities or knowledge I had. And I’m not saying it is effective to have a child grow up in a high maintenance yard to get them to like gardening, I’m saying the little extra exposure and education from my parents really shaped my love for it all.