As is often the case, we remember some of the facts, but not all, in any given scientific scenario. When we set some paperwhite narcissus bulbs in stone and water a few weeks ago in anticipation of a midwinter burst of blooms we decided to act on our partial knowledge of gangly growth retardation and corroborate the details later.
Cornell University's William Miller and team have concluded that giving paperwhite bulbs a shot of booze actually helps keep them from falling down(like a)drunk as they are wont to do.
Surprisingly, given our well know fondness for Bloody Marys, we did not have a drop of the recommended types of alcohol in the house. Both the pantry (vodka or gin) and the medicine cabinet (rubbing alcohol) were bare of all suggested forms of bulb inebriates. So, as not to be too late in the growth process with our experiment, we decided to try a glug of cooking sherry, which seemed like a better choice than Grand Marnier. It didn't seem to hurt. Then, when soon after we obtained a bottle of cheap vodka, which we will use for vanilla making, and okay, for the desperation Bloody Mary, we gave it another shot along with additional water to dilute it.
Then, after all possibility of doing it right the first time had passed, and only then did we actually research the issue and find out how it should have been done as outlined in the Cornell University research paper, "Pickling Your Paperwhites".
So far, so good. Buds are coming along and leaf growth is still in check. We apparently got lucky with our glug method of alcohol measuring. Different types of booze require different ratios of dilution, and too much can be fatal. According to the smarties at Cornell: "As with humans, paperwhites can also suffer alcohol overdoses! We suggest 4-6% alcohol as a normal and safe range. If plants are given much more than 10% alcohol, growth problems will start, and 25% alcohol is dramatically toxic. So, moderation is the key!
The little guys made it through New Year's Eve still standing straight. Check back later for our report on how they handle the depressing, dark days of January.