my next-door neighbor introduced me to paperwhites when he brought some over as part of a very thoughtful holiday gift. they came in a bulb vase a lot like this one, and hadn't yet bloomed. as a result, hhh was convinced for weeks that they were scallions. the stalks kept growing until the plant was about twice as tall as the vase, and then tiny muslin blossoms appeared.
the holiday paperwhites lasted quite a while, but eventually died off. i hadn't yet asked the internets what to do with the bulb after the flowers faded, so apparently did everything totally wrong and had to throw away the bulb. (what not to do: trim the stalks in hopes that more blossoms will come in. they will not.)
then, i saw a whole basket of paperwhite bulbs for sale while we were in hudson last month. i grabbed a couple and vowed that i'd do everything right this time. i started one in the bulb vase, and waited a couple weeks to start the next bulb so that there would be some vertical diversity. since a lot of people have trouble with them toppling over, this tip might come in handy: you can add some gin (or tequila, vodka, whiskey or rum, for that matter) to the water. this stunts the growth of the leaves without affecting the flowers. (also, who knew there was a flower bulb research program at cornell university? i need to reevaluate my life choices.)
this time, i know to let the flowers die off before trimming and drying off the bulbs. then i'll store them in a cool, dark place until the dead of next winter, when i'll get them out and force them (ha!) to cheer me up again.