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.