How Not to Grow Paperwhites

To the left is a picture–a professional photo, mind you–of how properly forced Paperwhites should look.

Now, I’ve never been very Martha Stewart-ish, but I do okay. I’ve always loved the idea of forcing bulbs. The Victorians were mad for it and came up with all kinds of clever dishes and containers to do the job. So when my dear friend Hope gave me a basket and some bulbs for Christmas, I thought it was the perfect time to try.

She suggested using a yogurt container, but I didn’t have an empty one, so I used a plastic storage container. Hope is one of those amazing women who is born knowing how to do things like force bulbs and throw a gourmet dinner party for eighteen five hours after winning a 10K run. I, however, had to look up instructions on the Internet. The bulbs weren’t supposed to come in direct contact with water, so the instructions I found suggested setting them on stones or glass beads and filling the container with just enough water to tease out roots from the bottoms of the bulbs. I couldn’t find any glass beads or fetching stones around the house, so I settled on seashells. It seemed like a sensible solution to me.

This is how they looked after about a week. They rooted awfully fast! (Again, apologies for the fuzziness of the photos. My digital camera eats batteries and doesn’t much care to do close-ups.)

The Paperwhites just kept getting taller and taller–freakishly so. When they began to lean, I used twine to bind them together.

When they got way too tall, they would all bend at once, quite near the bulbs. But all I had to do was pull them up, turn them around, and prop them against the wall. This went on for about a week after they bloomed. We laughed about how resilient they were and how weird it was that they never fell out of the container.

Yesterday, I came home to this:

Shells everywhere. Water everywhere. Paperwhites–still bound together–lying in deshabille on the floor.

But here’s the weird thing. Look at how the roots worked their way around and into the seashells. In some cases, individual roots threaded themselves through tiny holes as though they had eaten right through the shells. Aggressive, wouldn’t you say?

Life reaches out and prevails, even in a plastic storage container. Funny, that.

5 thoughts on “How Not to Grow Paperwhites”

  1. On the morrow, when that slight tickling on your nose catches you in that half dream state ascending to full wakefulness, I pray your mind not to see those roots.

  2. Mark, I know exactly what you mean. Don’t they look like something out of a Lovecraft story? I think that’s why I find them strangely compelling.

  3. Hey beautiful,

    These pictures are so cool! I do love flowers, but can’t grow them so I have to rely on the kindness of strangers to send them. 🙂 There’s something mysterious and lovely about white flowers — something out of a dream.

  4. Sorry about your paperwhites, but they led you to a marvelous truth: life reaches out and prevails. Yes!!!

  5. Sweet Michelle–I love white flowers, too. Especially orchids. I used to be able to grow flowers. Something about this place, though…It resists.

    You deserve many flowers!

    Hi, Patry!!!!! I’m so glad to hear from you. I just saw your latest post this past week, and was glad of (much of) the news. During P’s ordeal, he suffered far longer from the infection he picked up than he did from the effects of chemo.

    You are the Queen of Prevailing Life, my dear, and the Heart of Hope! xo

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