By the time winter settles in – like, right about now – I'm looking forward to spring. The snow in the mountains is fantastic, but the grey in my garden and in the city sky is a little dingy. Yes, by now, with holidays over and January in full swing, I'm peeking into my garden and hoping to spot some signs of life. The signs are there, amazingly enough – furry buds on the star magnolia, little sprouts of green where daffodils will pop in a few months, even an inexplicable touch of a yellow flower petal on a forsythia bush. I have hope. Gray will retreat; green will return. But I also need help being patient, help waiting for more color to creep into the winter garden.

To the rescue in these gray days: indoor house plants. Paperwhites are the premier pick-me-up for January blues. They're easy to grow from bulbs yourself, and make a great little indoor science project for kids and other amateur horticulturists. Or you can cheat and find them at local nurseries and grocery stores already blooming. (In fact, some nurseries are sold out of the narcissus bulbs, so call ahead.) 

Buy the bulbs and "force" them yourselves. It's as easy as getting a juice glass, throwing in some stones, plopping in the bulb and giving it some water. Glass beads or colorful marbles make the whole thing prettier. Go for irridescent if you're really wild. It's a miracle when, after a few weeks, the bulbs start sprouting up green leaves. And then the flowers, and the fragrance...

Portland Nursery is sold out of bulbs but has Narcissus that are already blooming, five bulbs in a pot for $15. (They are also having a sale on indoor house plants January 18-20, 2013.) Garden Fever has a year-round beautiful selection of decorative glass, polished stones, gravel and stone chips. New Seasons also has narcissus on sale at the moment, blooming in small pots or as bulbs. The bulbs themselves don't look like much, but boy do they grow up nicely...