Paperwhites will always make me think of Elspeth Thompson, an incredible gardener, possessed of an innate style. She's no longer with us, but her influence, I'm sure, lives on. I was once lucky enough to meet her and she was so quietly self possessed and graceful, inspiring in her approach to both her life and work. 

It was through her blog that I first tried forcing paperwhites; like sloe gin it's one of those late autumn traditions that only come to fruition in the darkest days of midwinter. Take bulbs of scented paperwhite narcissus in late October and place them in a bowl, surrounded and supported by pebbles, adding just enough water to reach the root tips. 


Leave a good 5mm between the water and the base of the bulb; in the past I haven't been too faithful to this rule and some have rotted, but fear not, the roots will seek the water out. Then put them in a cool, dark spot and wait for them grow. Around Christmas or New Year you can bring them out and place them on a sunny windowsill - they'll soon flourish and flower, filling your house with their heavenly scent and delicate blooms. Apparently a slosh of gin or vodka is a good way of arresting their development if they get too leggy, which sounds like a good plan, as long as you keep the ratio of one for the pot, two for the gardener.

I hope Elspeth would approve of the idea of Peony & Praxis; she certainly influenced me and many of the ideas here.