Thursday, October 24, 2013

DIY Paperwhites

I’m continuing paperwhite bulb planting, and it’s been a bit of high and low price-wise as I choose containers.  I’m looking for containers for various purposes: for the house, for friends, for gifts.  I am debating a piece or two of Astier Villatte pottery with paperwhites for my table, though I would rather buy Astier in Paris and prefer the vintage French white porcelain pieces I collect.   I have planted some of my vintage copper kitchen pieces with bulbs, which will make a great display for the Sunday market, as well as wine and produce crates. I am looking for pieces that are interesting, that will be amusing, surprising and unique.  Yes, we will have all of that.  But it seems that as soon as I finish one series, my Mom decides that particular presentation would  be just perfect for gifting to a certain person.  She fell in love with this crenellated tin container yesterday.  These are the only containers I have bought this year, and I used a red cyclamen in this sample, with two paperwhites, and added a cordon rouge.  I love the saturated color of the red, and so does Mom, evidently.


The red of the ribbon and cyclamen will be set off perfectly by the white of the flowers.  I can’t wait to smell them again. 


But as Mom picks out her favorites, I have been forced to make more trips to the basement to find more containers, as I can see that Mom is going to be gifting a lot of paperwhites this year.  We went to a local garden shop we love, and they offer five paperwhite bulbs in a terra cotta pot for $40, but Mom says she prefers my arrangements.  Oh yes, and mine are free, but that’s ok.  So you have a bunch of gifts to give and don’t have containers on hand, like the glass vases I showed you?  Here’s another idea I came up with today, as I came across our supply of cookie and fruit cake tins.  You guessed in, we save them all; how could I throw this away?  They’re cute, and I use them when I package up Christmas Sandies and Biscotti for my gifts, but I have more than I need.  I considered using tin cans for paperwhite containers, but while I save a lot of things, I don’t save empty tin cans, and most of them are so small they hold one or three bulbs.  We do have a few coffee cans that are larger, but still not large enough.  The cookie tins are better since they hold more bulbs.

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You will need to find a sheet of birch bark for this project, and a cookie tin.  I have a few trees that I like to borrow a little bark from.  If you look, you’ll find one that is shedding a nice sheet of bark.  It’s soft and a little sponge-y and easy to work with.  You could use green leaves or other bark or any other organic material.  Burlap or fabric would also be great.  But I like the look of the bark.  Separate the sheets of the bark, so that you have one that you can bend easily.  Not too thick.  I like to look for a piece that is visually interesting, with some veining or interesting texture


Use a piece that is generous enough to cover the circumference of the tin.  Test the bark around the tin; does it bend easily?  If it’s too short, you can always add a little patch.  It’s a very forgiving material to work with.

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Using a glue gun, put a small line of glue on the tin and press the end of the bark piece on it.  The bark should overlap the tin on the top and the bottom, with a generous margin.


Wrap the bark around the tin, pulling it tightly.  Secure the other end with another line of glue and press while it cools.  Use any other drops of glue to secure the ends.


Use scissors to trim the excess bark off the bottom of the tin.  If in doubt, trim a little generously and refine when you see the tin sitting on the table.  If you are ambitious, you can fold the sheet of bark in pieces under the foot and secure with glue.  Either way, it should now sit like this~


Trim the top of the tin.  You can cut just above the silver rim.  Or you can fold the bark down over the rim once you know how to work with it.  This is the really basic version.  But it’s ok if a little silver rim is showing since we’ll hide that with moss in a minute.


Add your soil or leaves, and bulbs.  Water carefully, with pure water.  Push the bulbs down just a little into the soil.


When you are ready to gift this, add a little moss to fill in the area around the bulbs and pay attention to cover any edges of the silver tin that show.  Ideally, you don’t want any part of the container to show; you should see moss and bark, though as soon as the flowers appear, all eyes will be on the blooms.  Be carful to not overwater as the blooms develop.  There is a fine line between keeping the soil a little moist and having a soggy mess.


I added a ribbon around the middle of the tin, which I thought was cheery and made my Mom happy; she is giving this one to someone tomorrow morning.  And while you can spend up to $40 for five bulbs in a pot at a garden store, you can have six bulbs here with a free tin and a little moss and bark for about $6.  It makes a beautiful year-end thank you in my mind, and we made it ourselves.


See what you can find and reclaim for paperwhite containers; I love the idea that we reused this tin instead of tossing it into the recycle.  And the man who gets this on his desk tomorrow morning will be enjoying it for many weeks to come.  Tomorrow morning I am off to downtown Los Angeles for floral and fabrics.  You can keep up with me on Instagram for this jaunt.  I’m officially addicted to Instagram now!!  Have you tried it yet??!


  1. So beautiful.

  2. Love this idea of recycling an old biscuit tin.and as you say room for six bulbs It looks ready for a Christmas present with the pretty red ribbon.

  3. AW GHEEZZZ! no wonder my paper whites don't do well, I plant them to deep. and clyclamin all die on me. I do have luck with Jade plannts. Can't believe that November is almost here. Nice post.

  4. No I haven't tried Instagram yet, though I may try making those bulb containers :)

  5. Wonderful post! I remember when you did these last year and how beautiful they turned out. We just moved so this year, I am going to "borrow" your idea and make them for all our new neighbors. Thanks for an economic yet elegant gift idea! Love your blog! All the best, Maureen

  6. Love paper whites and I adore what you did with the cookie tin, very nice!

    xo Londen

  7. Lovely Andrea, I am very excited to plant mine when they arrive!
    2013 Art by Karena

  8. What perfect timing for this awesome post! I was just making my list of things to accomplish for November, and Christmas hostess gifts was one. This is just my style and satisfies two requirements:semi homemade and inexpensive!! Hope you are well.

  9. Love the natural look of the bark. I always start mine the weekend after Thanksgiving for gifts and to scatter throughout the house. It's fun to hunt for unusual containers at thrift stores and the flea market. The cookie tins are a great idea and there's always some to be found, Thank you!