A White (and Red) Christmas with Paperwhites and Amaryllis
It’s 5 o’clock on Christmas Eve. It’s getting dark outside, and a cracking log fire is keeping the house nice and toasty. A beautiful dark green spruce is standing in the living room, decorated with lights, tinsel and ornaments, some of which have been in the family for generations. Christmas stockings are hanging on the mantle piece and under the tree carefully wrapped presents are piling up. A wreath of Holly and Ivy is decorating the front door, and the smell of pine needles and mulled wine fills the air. The radio is playing Carols and the Christmas atmosphere is complete…
Far away from spring
It’s the depth of December, the days are short and the nights are long. Nature is sleeping and our minds couldn’t be further away from spring if we tried. Balmy days and fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky seem like a lifetime ago. Sunshine, birds chirping, nature bursting into life, green shoots everywhere, spring flowers starting to bloom, it’s like a distant dream. Or is it?
Red and white delight
Because just like Christmas celebrates the return of the light, the blossoming of hope in the depths of winter, so spring flower bulbs can be made to burst to life in the darkest months. Holly, Ivy and Spruce bring the green of Christmas into your home, but for the red and white there are more options than candy canes and stockings alone. With some clever planting you can have Paperwhite narcissus and stunning red Amaryllis flowering in your living room this Christmas!
Paperwhites (otherwise known as Narcissus tazetta) are members of the daffodil family. What makes them unique is that unlike other narcissus species, they aren’t cold-hardy. This means that they can be grown outside in warmer areas, but in colder areas they can only grow indoors. It also means that they don’t need a chilling period, and all they need to start growing is water.
You can force Paperwhites in three ways:
With the vase method you put a single bulb in a slender vase full of water, in such a way that only the base of the bulb touches the water. Put them in a warm sunny place, and watch them grow.
For the gravel method you fill a shallow bowl with gravel or glass pebbles until it’s almost full. Then you place the bulbs on the gravel and fill the container with water until it touches the bottoms of the bulbs. You’ll have to top up the water every few days, to make sure the bulb’s bases are still in the water. When the flowers start growing they might become top-heavy and they will need some support. A festive way to support them is to wrap the stems loosely with some Christmas-themed ribbon.
The last method is the potting soil method. Plant a bulb or bulbs in a container using high-quality potting mix, and tuck the bulbs in until only a quarter of the bulb remains above the soil. You want to water the Paperwhites regularly when you choose this method, to make sure the soil remains slightly moist at all times. However, don’t allow water to sit in a puddle at the bottom, because that might lead to fungus or rot. To support the flowers when they get bigger, use little twigs or bamboo sticks.
Whichever method you choose, the Paperwhites will start flowering quickly, just a week or two after planting.
Amaryllis don’t need a cold period either but they take a bit longer to bloom than Paperwhites, so it’s best to start the forcing process in mid- to late September to get them blooming for Christmas.
The first thing you do is soak the bulbs for a few hours, to help re-hydrate the roots and speed up the growth process. Take a pot with draining holes, not too big, and fill it with compost or high quality soil, putting the bulb on top. Top up with more compost or soil until only one third of the bulb is still sticking out. Put the pot in a warm and sunny spot, and water it sparingly until the bulb begins to sprout. Once the stalk has started growing, make sure to keep the soil moist. Because the amaryllis will grow up to 2 feet tall, turn the pot regularly to keep it growing straight, and support it with a bamboo stick when it starts to get top-heavy. If you move the pot out of direct sunlight once the flowers open, the Amaryllis will last longer.
Your own bulb-themed Christmas
Do you want the deep reds, pure whites and lovely scent of Amaryllis and Paperwhites to be part of your holiday season too? On our website we will guide you through the purchasing process, and we’ll make sure that your bulbs will be delivered to you at the perfect planting time.