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Paperwhite Narcissii and teachers' presents

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 23 Nov 2013 at 02:01 PM

Paper white daff
I don't mean to panic you, but it's less than a month until the end of term. Unless your children go to private school, of course, in which case I believe they broke up sometime in late October - possibly last year. Still for the rest of us parents we'll soon be faced with the perennial question - what to buy for teachers? 

My answer to this question (as to so many) is usually 'alcohol'.  However, when you add on teaching assistants and lunchtime supervisors (don't you dare say dinner ladies), my children end up clinking into school like some pre-teen lushes. 

So this year I thought ahead.  I know.  It's unusual. Don't worry, I'm sure it won't happen again. 

Yes, I decided to plant up some Narcissii Paperwhites.  This is an absolute doddle, easy enough for children to do, and will give you scented white flowers over Christmas.

The first thing you need is a glass bowl.  I bought ours at Ikea and they were only £1 each (although the cost to my soul of wandering around the Swedish monolith looking for the exit is incalculable).

If you want the children to decorate it, let them lose with some acrylic paint pens.  This will last while the flowers have finished blooming but can be washed off afterwards meaning you can reuse the bowl.

Next, place a few centimetres of gravel in the base and place the bulbs on top.  It's worth stripping off the dark jackets so you see the white bulbs beneath as they'll be on show.*  You can buy Paperwhites in many places - the cheapest way is to purchase them in bulk from a wholesale bulb supplier online but many have now sold out so you may need to try your local garden centre.

Try to fit in as many bulbs as possible so they support each other as they grow up. You can then add some decoration to the top - more gravel works well or else try adding some moss (I just rake mine out of lawns at this time of year).

Finally, add some water so it comes up to just above the base of the bulb.

Place it on a sunny windowsill - and that's it.

In about 3-4 weeks you should have lovely scented white narcissii on show.  The only problem you might encounter is the plants getting leggy.  This descriptor is a good thing in catwalk models, but is rather frowned upon in the land of bulbs.  To stop the overlong stems flopping, you can tie a bow of raffia or ribbon around their middle. 

Alternatively, you can try to dwarf your plants. 

How do you do this?

Guess what?  The answer is alcohol (see - told you). More specifically a 5% alcohol solution you use in place of the water.  If you need more advice on this, see this video (3.15 minutes in).

*Some people can find daffodils a skin irritant so, if you want to play safe, you can use gloves (although you'll find the peeling tricky)

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