The Christmas spirit has arrived early at my house. This will be the third Christmas since my store has closed. The first year after we were away over the holidays so I didn’t even set up the tree. Even last year I was still missing all the hustle (stress??) of being an independent retailer and made a pretty lacklustre attempt at decorating my home. For the first time in many, many years I’m excited about getting everything ready for the holidays.
When I had the store Christmas was always on my mind. The season started in January when all the buying had to be done. The rest of the year I was planning how the Christmas set up was going to take shape. In July and August, the stock would arrive for pricing (along with the nightmare as to where we would store it all in our very tiny storage room!). Worry would creep in…did we order enough inventory, did we have way too much, was it all going to sell? Invariably the one item that was to be the central theme of all the displays would be discontinued or back ordered and then the planning would start all over. Ideally, the last week of October should have been the set up for the Christmas displays but our competitors were always weeks ahead of us. To stay competitive the decorations would find their way onto the sales floor earlier and earlier every year. Seasoned shoppers would love it but many others would grumble that it was just too early. What to do when …that was always the question? After long hours (months) in the store surrounded by Christmas decor and decorations I never had the desire to really decorate my home. But and in spite of the year-long “Christmas rollercoaster ride” at CC on Whyte, I will forever treasure those memories and the opportunity to meet all the wonderful people who supported the store for so many years.
This year I have decided to go all out with the Christmas preparation using fresh greenery, live plants and forced bulbs (lots of forced bulbs!) Gardeners have been forcing bulbs since the mid-1700’s. At that time bulbs were rare and expensive. Since fresh flowers were not readily available for winter bouquets in the homes of the wealthy, forced bulbs became a fashionable replacement. Now special “forcing bulbs” are inexpensive and can be purchased in the fall. In the dead of winter, the promise of Spring comes with the blooms of these special flowers.
I especially love these delicate white flowers called Paperwhites (Narcissus). Many of you may really dislike their pungent scent but to me it just is the scent of the Christmas season! I love walking in the door and catching a whiff of that distinct and familiar fragrance. I found unscented Paperwhite bulbs at a local greenhouse for those who find the natural fragrance offensive. Store bought Paperwhite bulbs do not require any chilling time and can be potted right out of the box either in soil or in water. Special vases with pinched necks were used for forcing bulbs centuries ago. The head of the bulb would sit up above the water and the roots would dangle below. These vases can occasionally be found at florists but flea markets and resale boutiques are probably a better source.
In Greek mythology, it’s said that the “Amaryllis” was named after a Greek shepherdess. It is unknown if this bulb originated in Portugal, South Africa or Chile, but it did find it’s way to Europe in the 1800’s. Today Holland is the major grower and distributor making it available worldwide over the holiday season. Amaryllis comes in many colours from white to almost every shade of red. Like the Paperwhites, Amaryllis “forcing bulbs” have already gone through the chilling period so can be potted up right after purchasing. They, too, can be grown in water making a beautiful addition to any Christmas display.
If you plan it just right, your forced bulbs will be blooming for any special event you may be hosting over the season. Just to be sure that I have blooms over the next month, I will be planting up my bulbs every week until the New Year!