Archive for November, 2011

Last week’s post was about using a solution of alcohol and water (one part alcohol to 10 parts water) to restrict the growth of paperwhites. Theoretically this will keep the stems short and strong enough to support the flowers without them tipping over. My paperwhites have grown super fast this week.

And some of them have started tipping over. I think this is because I didn’t change the water soon enough. The instructions were to start the bulbs in regular water and when the shoots reached a couple of inches to pour out the plain water and replace it with the alcohol/water solution. By the time I read about this and replaced the water most of the bulb shoots were 3 – 4 inches high, too far along apparently to have the desired effect. It will be interesting to see if the bulbs with the shorter shoots do any better.


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I’ve been so busy getting ready for company next week that my days are a blur of sanding, painting, installing, etc. Of course, gardening is part of the preparations and I’m doing a bit of planting both outdoors and indoors.

I love the way paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) look, but not the fragrance so I haven’t forced any of these bulbs in many, many years. But I was seduced by some really healthy looking bulbs when I was at Roger’s Gardens a few days ago. Roger’s is one of the premier nurseries in our area—or any area for that matter — and a very dangerous place to go with a few dollars in my pocket. Needless to say I spent a little more than I planned on spending, i.e. buying some of those bulbs.

I gathered some glass containers and put the bulbs in with some glass pebbles and water. A few days later they looked like this:

But then I got to thinking that maybe I should do a little research because, who knows, someone may have found a better way to do it in the intervening years. Lo and behold, someone has found a better way to force the bulbs. Specifically to deal with paperwhite’s propensity to grow so tall that they topple over. That means that I would have had to figure out a way to support the stems pretty soon, but with this newish technique I won’t have to bother with all that. Here’s how.

It’s very simple really. Once the green shoots are a couple of inches long, pour out the water and replace it with a solution that is 1 part rubbing alcohol to 10 or 11 parts of water. You can also use any hard liquor (not beer or wine), but you’ll have to do some calculations based on the percentage of alcohol to get the proper mixture. For that info click on this link to Easy to Grow Bulbs and an article by William B. Miller, Professor of Horticulture and Director of the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University cleverly entitled “Pickling Paperwhites.”

The result will be paperwhites that are about one third shorter that normal and less likely to tip over. According to Professor White they don’t know exactly why this is, but feel that it’s because the alcohol induces stress that prevents the plant from absorbing water as effectively as it normally would which limits the growth but not the flower production or longevity.

I replaced the water a couple of days ago and my plants still look great. So we’ll see. They’ll be beautiful I’m sure, I just hope that I don’t mind the smell as much as I used to.

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Durango, Colorado

Irvine, California

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I just finished a two-day marathon of transplanting, pruning, and garden cleanup. Still to go are mulching, freshening up some containers, and planting some bulbs and shrubs. That’s going to have to wait a day or two to give my aching muscles a chance to recover.

Gardening is hard work and the older you get, the more of a toll it takes on your body. Much as Mary Beth and I would like to power through, denial in full force, we simply can’t ignore how tired and sore all that lifting, squatting, bending, and digging makes us. No matter what age you are, if you’re in the garden all day you’ll feel it later on.

And I was really feeling it last night. So into the hot water I went and as I was soaking it occurred to me that we should share some of our best tips for pampering our aching bones. So here are a few things that will help you recover faster:

  1. Soak your bones. Get into a nice hot bath to which you’ve added some epsom salts (good for the garden and the gardener) or sea salts. Add a few drops of lavender for a relaxing, healing soak.
  2. Drink some tea. Yogi Tea has two products that really do seem to speed recovery and make us feel less achy after a long day of planting — Joint Comfort and Green Tea Muscle Recovery (which I’m sipping right now).
  3. Rub your pain away. Rub those aching muscles with some Arnica gel. It will reduce the swelling and tenderness. It’s great for bruises too. Another great product that I just discovered it Joint Rescue by Peaceful Mountain in Boulder. It’s a soothing organic and wild-crafted herbal gel that helps relieve pain and swelling in arthritic joints.
  4. Stretch it out. Gentle stretching is a good way to relax your tight muscles. Here are a few yoga stretches that will really help.
  5. Meditate. Studies have shown that meditation really can relieve pain. One study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found ” … a big effect – about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent.” Pretty amazing!
Do any or all of these and you should be feeling better soon. It’s important not to push too hard and to take care of yourself. Be kind not just to others, but to you too.

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