WHY DID I PLANT OODLES OF TROPICAL NARCISSI THIS MORNING? Well, because I want oodles of fragrant flowers to set among my holiday greens. I also wanted to put my collection of
tacky whimsical Santa Claus mugs to good use. But most of all, I wanted to show you how to grow these easy bulbs, and how to keep their flowering stems small…with alcohol.
You can plant tropical narcissus bulbs in any water-tight container. The only rule is that containers be deep enough, preferably 4-5 inches, to permit enough pebbles to be spread under and around the bulbs, and thus give support to the big root masses which develop.
Need a few bulb-containing ideas? I used the following:
A matching pair of green jardinieres (these, I think, will look great on the parlor mantel)
And five Santa Claus mugs. I bought these many years ago, thinking they’d be fun for serving homemade hot chocolate. In fact, they are terrific horticultural assets. I planted one N. ‘Inball’ paperwhite per mug. These, in bloom, will be the centerpiece for my annual Christmas Dinner Party.
True, the ceramic mugs will look out of place on a table laid with crystal and silver. But when it comes to decorating for Christmas, I have but one rule: Anything goes!
And where to hide the mugs until their Christmas-debut? My little-used guestroom seemed like a good choice. I should probably turn the mugs the other way around so they can view the rose garden below.
Tips for Planting. You’ll need pebbles or some other aggregate to anchor the bulbs in place. I prefer aquarium gravel, because it is composed of tiny, polished pebbles. Unlike driveway gravel or marbles, which are only suitable for large containers, aquarium gravel works in all planting-situations. The pebbles aren’t cheap, but they can be reused year after year.
Then pour water just to the top of the pebbles.
Odd groupings of three, five, or seven bulbs make the most attractive displays.
Bring the container to a cool, dim location for a week of root-making. Or, for fastest bloom, place it in full sunlight and warmth right from the get-go. I set my tureen of bulbs on the south-facing sill in the Music Room.
Tip: If you need flowers in time for Christmas and New Year’s, be sure to plant your bulbs by mid-November.
To keep the stems from growing too tall (unstaked, they will inevitably collapse in a miserable heap just as their flowers open), give them a shot of gin: Let the roots grow for one week, then pour the water off, and replace it with five parts water to one part gin (or vodka or tequilla — any liquor that is 40-proof will do the trick).
Tip: Don’t have booze in your house? Then use 7 parts water to one part isopropyl (“rubbing”) alcohol.
I can tell you this mild cocktail really works. The plants will grow to half their normal size, but the flowers will remain just as large and fragrant as usual. As evaporation occurs, replenish the bulbs with the same gin-mixture mentioned above, to a level that just reaches the base of the bulbs.
Be sure to move the bulbs to a less-sunny, less-warm location after the flowers open. The blossoms will last far longer in temperatures which do not exceed 65 degrees.
Here are just some of the tropical narcissus varieties I planted today:
Well. I hope I’ve inspired you to plant tropical narcissi for winter bloom. The fragrant flowers will remind you that spring is merely a state a mind.
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