Living Gifts

 Treated narcissus bulbs - plant them in a bowl with potting soil now and they will be budding or blooming when gift time arrives.
Treated narcissus bulbs – plant them in a bowl with potting soil now and they will be budding or blooming when gift time arrives.

With the fall closing in and Thanksgiving only a month away, you can create living gifts now, before life gets crazy, by planting bulbs in pots. There are two types of bulb that have been specially treated so that they can be grown without leaving them in a cold dark place for weeks (a process called forcing). They are the amaryllis, and the narcissus. The amaryllis has no smell though it’s fast growing tip and big quartet of bright flowers might be fun. For instance you could have two side by side and race them! The paper white narcissus has a strong scent which some people do not like but only take 6-10 weeks after planting to bloom. Other narcissus (remember to ask for treated bulbs)   take from 10-12 weeks to flower. Amaryllis can be given just after you plant them because watching them grow is the fun part. A six inch pot will hold one amaryllis bulb or four narcissus bulbs. Hyacinths  are wonderfully scented, but have not arrived in stores around here yet. Here is a website with fuller details Place the bulbs in the pot with potting soil underneath, between and around them with the roots down and the tip poking above the soil. Keep the potting soil just damp, and place the pots in a cool dark place (You can cover them lightly with a trash bag to create the dark conditions. And there you are, with your gifts peacefully putting down roots, and then beginning to sprout. All you have to do is check with your finger to keep the soil slightly dampened. After sprouting begins remove the trash bag. If you do not feel like messing with soil and pots, you can buy bulbs ready planted and about to flower, or you can buy a flowering cactus for your friends and for yourself if you enjoy the bright flowers against the dark cactus leaves. As the season for Christmas and Hanukah comes close, pine needles give off a lovely fresh scent, whether you have a Christmas tree or some pine branches laid along the mantelpiece. (There will be a blog post about decorating your home in early December.) You may still enjoy a bunch of flowers, especially during the winter months, and scented roses are lovely to smell and touch. Lilies are sold at Trader Joe’s stores at very low prices. (All Trader Joe’s flowers are a bargain.) The lily buds often open one by one . They bloom and scent the room for many days. (Do not put your nose too far into the flower or you may get a saffron yellow nose from the pollen which is quite hard to remove.) But the festive season has not arrived yet. In the meantime, house plants can offer something growing to interest you and occupy your fingers.   Why have house plants if you can’t really see them? Winter can be a shut in time, with extra hazards from ice and snow, and an apartment with living plants and flowers to enjoy can lift your spirits. On the whole, house plants and flowering bulbs need very little care for the amount of cheerfulness and interest they bring. Here are some suggestions, and there are more in the post Do You Want to Please Your eyes, Your Nose or Your Mouth? As well as the many varieties of pelagonium (scented leaf geraniums), you can buy more expensively a lovely vine called Stephanotis with gardenia scented flowers, which last for some weeks. Begonia Rex varieties grow big and vigorous with a wide range of leaf and flower colors, but no smell. Fig trees (ficus) can be grown indoors in moderate daylight, especially if you can put them outdoors in summer. There are many varieties and you can buy a baby in a pot with either green or brown leaves and help it grow over the years to a six footer with wide branches that can enliven a dull corner of your living room. If you just have a table top, there are lots of succulent plants in different shapes and sizes (choose the ones without prickles!) that can be made into a little garden with pebbles in a wide shallow pot. Here is a link to a website that tells you how. And of course these could be more gifts for your family.   Tell us about the house plants you grow and why you think they work well for people who do not see. Share your knowledge with the rest of us!

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