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Go white for winter

by Rhiannon James

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credit: Magnus Manske

Add some sparkle and scent to the house this winter with a striking arrangement of paperwhite narcissi.

While most houseplants are winding down for a well-deserved rest, there are a few bulbs that can be coaxed into blooming indoors during the winter. Amongst these are paperwhite narcissi, which have the advantage of being quick and easy to grow, produce very fragrant white flowers and can look as modern or as traditional as you like, depending on the container you use. Once planted, they will take about four to eight weeks to flower but you can create an arrangement that looks great straight away by adding decorative twigs to the container.

Things you’ll need

1. A metal or silver-coloured container (preferably with a pot inside that has drainage holes)

2. Bulb fibre or compost mixed with horticultural grit

3. Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus) bulbs. Paperwhites are often just labelled as such but you might find some that also have a specific cultivar name such as ‘Ziva’ or ‘Inbal’. Don’t worry if the bulbs have already started sprouting when you buy them, just check that the new shoots aren’t damaged.

4. Dried Spanish moss. This will add a silvery sheen to the top of the container and another texture to the arrangement. You can buy it from flower markets, florists and craft shops.

5. Decorative twigs

Step-by-step

1. Fill up your container with bulb fibre to the point where, when you put the bulbs on top, their tips will be sitting about level with the rim.

2. Then add your bulbs. You can really pack them into the container; just leave small gaps in between.

3. Next, cut your twigs to size and put them into the gaps between the bulbs. Push them right down through the compost until they’re touching the base of the container so they stay securely upright. As well as looking decorative, they should help to support the flower stems if they show any signs of flopping.

4. Add more bulb fibre to the container but leave the tips of the bulbs uncovered. Then firm and water the bulbs in well.

5. Give the arrangement an attractive finish by covering the surface of the compost with a thin layer of dried Spanish moss.

6. Check whether your bulbs need a spell somewhere cool and dark before you bring them into the house. Otherwise, place your container in a bright spot and keep the compost moist but not wet.

7. In about four to eight weeks your paperwhites will flower, so if you plant your bulbs now, your display might just reach its peak in time for Christmas.

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