Did you know that most etiquette books advise against bringing the host(ess) fresh flowers when you journey to their home for a dinner party? This is because your host is probably busy putting finishing touches on food, greeting guests, serving cocktails, cleaning up a wine spill, telling the kids to go back to bed, etc. Fresh flowers need to be trimmed to go in a vase with haste, provided the host can locate a vessel of a suitable size, and you can see how that might not be your friend’s top priority with the hustle and bustle of hosting. I maintain that flowers are an acceptable hostess gift, but spare yourself this party faux pas by bringing your fresh flowers already arranged and in water.
Now that you may be receiving invitations for Friendsgivings, Thanksgiving meals with inlaws, and holiday parties galore, here’s a simple, inexpensive way to bring fresh holiday cheer to a hostess near you.
– 0.5 gallon mason jar (or other tall vase – check thrift stores to purchase a few cheaply)
– couple handfuls of decorative stones (I get mine at the craft store with a coupon, but if you have a gravel driveway or live near a river bed, go to town!)
– a paperwhite bulb
– ribbons, twine, burlap, or other decor
Step 1. Make sure your jar is clean. Add a handful of stones to the bottom.
Step 2. Nestle the bulb in the stones. Add additional stones until the bulb is mostly (but not all the way) covered.
Step 3. Add water just until the bottom of the bulb is touching the water. See the water line in the photo below?
Step 4. Decorate the jar by adding a ribbon, burlap, twine, paint, etc.
You can purchase paperwhite bulbs at your local nursery, or order them online. You could also use amaryllis bulbs, another holiday favorite, but these are larger, and will require a container that can accommodate their size. You can start this project today and present the bulbs in various states of growth to your hosts throughout this holiday season – just be sure to keep the water level so the bottom of the bulb is just touching the water.
Paperwhites grow tall and (usually) straight, which is why I recommend a tall container, but really you can use any old container – if it’s less than 12″ tall, just be sure to tell your friend that the flower may need to have a stake to lean on once it reaches full height. It’ll take 4-8 weeks to blossom, so keep that in mind if you’re hoping to use bloomed paperwhites for a party of your own.
This gift was inspired by a woman with whom I worked in my former corporate life. She gave each of her team members a paperwhite bulb for Christmas each year. She was like my “work mom,” and so I always got one too, and loved watching the bulb grow and grow until it finally bloomed.
Whenever we are invited to dinner or an event at someone’s home, I like to take a little token to present to our hosts. Typically it’s something homemade like jam, relish, soap, Alex’s beer, or infused booze. And if I’m really short on time, a bottle of wine dressed up with some ribbons. This holiday, these simple paperwhite gifts will bring a little greenery and cheer for weeks to come, and they won’t stress out our hosts, even the most black-thumbed of them.
P.S. Don’t know what a paperwhite looks like in bloom? They’re kind of like tiny white daffodils. A quick google search can help you out.