Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amaryllis, I have loved

It's that time of year, Amaryllis, Paperwhites, and spring forced bulbs are for sale. Many of us have received or admired an amaryllis bulb over the years. It is one of my favorite things to give a child at Christmas. It seems many adults are afraid of them, what to do, how do I do this, but children they understand,... it's magic. A bulb of this heft, will produce something spectacular, it will be stunning, and it's gonna be huge, lets plant it now! Easy!
I will share with those of you who don't know magic, the tale of my foundling bulb. Once upon a time many years I noticed a strange leaf had appeared in my window box. It was a single thick glossy strap leaf, vigorous and healthy, but what could it be? It was not one of the resident petunias, yet it had a cultivated look about it, I couldn't imagine how or what this wee volunteer could be. I would watch and wait, what else could I do but let it's mystery unfold. My small charge continued to flourish, but was in no hurry to give up it's secret. The petunias did what petunias do, the summer slipped into fall, and as I stripped the boxes of the spent flowers I nearly savaged my forgotten friend. Admonishing my carelessness, I apologised with an affectionate pat, it looked both cheery and forlorn standing alone in the box. I peeked at it through the window on occasion, it seemed to show no signs of succumbing to winter, funny little thing, whatever it was. It did go dormant, finally forgotten, I missed the event.
I planted the boxes next year without any thoughts to my missing fledgling, until there it was bigger than ever, and just as happy. Such was our relationship for the next three years. This persistent little plant with it's perky personality thriving away. It had it's place one end of the planter. I kept one eye on it. It had become clear it was a bulb, and that was going to be big, but still I had no good guess what it was. I knew many things it wasn't, it didn't look like anything else.
Year four, it comes to me, out of the blue, I know what it is. It's an Amaryllis. Amaryllis don't grow here, do they, it sure looks like one, it can't be, how did it survive winters, how did it arrive in my planter. It's big enough, I don't understand, but I am sure I am right. This year I give it it's own pot. I am stunned by my big bulb, still it doesn't bloom. It grows, it's a strapping specimen of something. This has always been it's charm, it's saving grace, what kept it from being weeded . It's no longer an interloper in the petunias, it's my new ....., rare and exotic, special, special, something or other? What if it's not hardy, how do I winter it, what should I do, I don't know how to look after an exotic bulb, what if I kill it, should I bring it in, it survived before, it's so big won't it freeze. Mercifully I just forgot it as was our arrangement. I don't think I was prepared to make this decision.
Year five, it is fine, it has survived. I have become quite taken with my friend, and in fact moved it as precious cargo to a new house while it slept. I think as reward for anticipating it's spring emergence, instead of the " hey your still alive" routine, it bloomed. I had grown from seed, ( that's my story, and I can tell it as I like), an Amaryllis. A special, like never before seen hardy outdoor Amaryllis, I am quite the expert gardener. I loved this plant.
It was a force. It multiplied, it divided into new bulbs, it stayed in leaf all winter, each year it threw out more flower spikes, it was a show stopper. Did I mention I grew this! One year it had fourteen spikes. I took it to work!It bloomed in spring, big luxuriant pink blooms, it was magic. Everyone was very impressed, it was very impressive, it was our secret. I loved this plant It happened that I remembered where it came from...I think. I had an Amaryllis, it bloomed and I had neglected to remove the flower spike when it was finished. My mother in law was over one day and insisted on tucking the seed head into a house plant, because I am expert gardener, I knew better...hmmfff. I remember the "it won't grow", and her saying you never know, I always stick things in my plants. I have avocado's, orange trees, and a lychee nut, it's fun, you wait and see if something comes. I plant them and forget, maybe you will get a surprise. I suspect I killed and composted the house plant, then used the compost to ammend my boxes. I got more than a surprise, I got several lessons, a relationship, and a journey.
This season give a gift of wonder to a child on your Christmas list, consider an Amaryllis bulb. They will know exactly what to do with it, plant...and wait.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christmas Trees

This year I will be selling Christmas trees at my Garden Centre. I have sold many trees over the years, so when it came to my store, I knew I needed to find a really special supplier. They had to be fresh, they needed to be local, but most important they had to pass my daughter's " Christmas stamp of approval". Who would know my beautiful baby daughter would grow to be a relentless keeper of traditions and standards. No ornament is allowed out of it's place, no recipe may be changed, and the tree, well you can imagine.
My quest found me heading over the Malahat toward Naniamo in search of Mike Gogo's tree farm. When asked when I would arrive, my reply of "around noon", was met with "You can't come at noon, it's when I eat lunch, I will see you at 12:30", a man after my own heart! We agreed wholeheartedly on that point, I suspected we would get along famously, and already had good feeling about the trees.
My partner and I found the farm, 8 mi off the beaten track, down one of those great Westcoast rural roads. Mike was right I didn't need the address, I recognised the property for what it was, a Christmas tree farm. Later I found out about 60,000 of them an impressive sight, especially if your a bit crazy about Christmas. As we rounded the bend we came to an amazing sign, this is a heritage farm, over 100 years old. The sign dedicating the property was created using an old photograph, of what I assumed to be Grandpa Gogo.
We found the office, a museum of photo's, trophy's, and memorabilia, the big man across the desk was in his element, there was no need to guess who was who in the office. Introductions were warm, and immediately launched into question, and stories. We got to know each other before getting too deeply into business. The men folk bonded, a couple of story tellers who found common ground easily, sports, politics, the outdoors, a fondness for letters to the editor....and talking! The whole trip was worth meeting a larger than life local character with roots.
We did get down to business, had a wonderful tour of the property, these were the trees, I was thrilled. It was 2 1/2 hrs well spent, one of those special experiences you stumble onto , worth every bit of the drive, and I had a deal!

I am proud to offer very reasonably priced Vancouver Island grown trees this year. They are grown with attention to detail and quality, by someone who has been doing it since he was 14 years old. Mike let me in on this fact, oh ...mid handshake. This was a family business, on family land, that was obvious the moment we arrived.

6-8' sheared Douglas firs $35.00