Early every December, I bring home a lovely fresh evergreen fir, and a bag of something resembling onions. The tree is put up immediately, and garnished with lights and lovely things. The ugly little onions are popped in a bowl atop some polished stones or seashells, watered, and left in a windowsill. It takes a week or so for the first rewards - green tips bowing in the direction of the light - but once the paperwhites begin growing, their progress is rapid. By Christmas, they've grown at least a foot high, and the room smells like fresh flowers and fir. I can't wait to grow them each season, and I love them so much that I can look at a room like this, by Jeffrey Bilhuber...
...and still manage to notice the quiet little paperwhites on the stairs, in the middle of the colorful noise.

They're such unassuming little flowers, they're a great counterpoint to drama, as Tory Burch's library demonstrates.

Paperwhites are lovely with a traditional look too. Isn't that pine needle "chandelier" marvelous? With the ribbons, it reminds me of a St. Lucia's wreath.

Bunch paperwhites together for a glamourous look, as Mary McDonald does here.

Paperwhites are also wonderful for small spaces; they'll rest comfortably in a windowsill, double later as a table centerpiece for a holiday meal, and they require materials that you already have on hand (a vase or bowl, some loose stones or gravel). I love the way ornaments and a silver bowl were used to make this grouping extra special.

You can also make a charming vignette with them somewhere in the house. I've found that they need good sunlight most of the day for the first two weeks or so, but once they're growing strong, you can sit them in other places with indirect light and they'll bloom away.

- Tips - 

Try to buy your paperwhites at a gardening center or somewhere selling them individually. When sold with a pot, as they often are, it's rarely a good deal and you can't inspect them and ensure they're healthy in the packaging.

Examine a flower bulb the way you would an onion - spots, discoloration, or excessive shedding of "layers" is a bad sign. It's best to buy one that's already begun to bud just a little; if it's green or pale-green to white, it should be healthy. 

Forcing bulbs is so easy - no soil required! Just pile up your favorite floral materials:  stones, gravel, shells will do. Use your imagination, and try larger beads or other items that coordinate with your decor in a glass bowl. Keep the water just at or below the base of the bulb at the roots. Be careful not to get the bulb itself damp, or it can rot. You may only need to water every few days.


Images/ Jeffrey Bilhuber via Foo Dog Ate My Homework/ Tory Burch via Habitually Chic/ Carolyn Roehm via Pinterest (unknown source)/ Better Homes and Gardens via Loft & Mary McDonald via Veranda/ Tiffany Blue via The City Sage


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