Plant paper whites for holiday blooms

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17. Paper white bulbs

Botanically speaking, daffodils, jonquils, and what are commonly called paper whites, are all Narcissus. It is the birth flower of December symbolizing sweetness, rebirth, and formality. (We do not need to dwell on the fact that it also stands for egotism and self-admiration, qualities it carries from the tragic youth, Narcissus. That Narcissus was turned into a flower, is enough.)

The Paper White Narcissus is a bulb commonly used as a “forced” pot- plant around the winter holidays. Planted in shallow dishes or vases filled with pebbles, the bulbs will bloom just 6 weeks from the time they are started. Many people enjoy watching the daily progress of the roots in a clear vase. The speed with which they grow make them an ideal kid’s project. The fragrance is sweet and reminds us of sunshine in the dark of winter.

After the bloom has finished, plant the bulbs outdoors in a sunny location and let the foliage wither naturally. The blossoms will be back to see you the following winter. You can just as easily use paper whites in the garden like any other bulb. They will bloom naturally in late December and January reminding us that spring is on the way.

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