Now that it’s almost December, things around Halcyon Farm really ramp up in preparation for Christmas and all its associated festivities.
One tradition at Halcyon House is to buy narcissus bulbs, also known as paperwhites, in bulk. When they bloom in about four to six weeks, they provide a much needed boost of brightness over the long days of deep winter.
Planting narcissus bulbs is simple – all you need is a container, and you can use anything from a tea cup to an antique cachepot to a pewter julep cup to a vase. At Ladew Gardens a few years ago, they used flat copper trays and put dozens of bulbs in them. It was fabulous.
Fill the bottom with an inch or two of small pebbles, or glass stones. If you’re using pebbles, make sure to rinse them off before you add them to your vase. They can have some remnant sand and fillers that could harm your containers – so be sure to line the antique pots if you use them!
Nestle the bulbs, root side down, into the pebbles and add water to just cover the roots. Keep it in a cool place until the roots start growing, as they will be sturdier and produce stronger stalks. Bring into the sun and warmth and watch the bulbs grow. Be sure to keep an eye on the water level, not letting it get below the bulbs’ bases. And don’t water them above the bulbs’ shoulders – the widest part.
We have heard of people adding a slug of gin or vodka to the water to help keep the stalks from flopping over. We prefer drinking the slug of gin and keeping the water in the plants.
At Halcyon House Antiques, we’re selling a perfect hostess gift: A Lucite box, filled with stones and several narcissus bulbs, tied in a beautiful bow. You can buy a few at a time and keep them on hand to take with you to parties. We have received the best reviews from both the giver and the recipient!
Some people are put off by the scent of narcissus flowers, but you can find unscented ones which are still just as beautiful. Store the bulbs in the refrigerator until you are ready to plant them, and you will have fresh flowers until spring comes!
Amaryllis bulbs are also great for mid-winter cheer. We grow them by the dozen and use them for cut flowers in arrangements. A few years ago, Style magazine did an article about Christmas at Halcyon, and featured several images of our amaryllis arrangements, which we had put in old silver trophies!
We were given a few very special amaryllis bulbs recently, and have investigated how to make sure they bloom again next year – apparently it is a combination of feeding and starving, both with light and water.
Having fresh flowers in your house during the deepest days of winter will go a long way to making your house and your outlook a lot brighter.