A Cheering Winter Star
I was in need of a morale boost a couple of weeks ago, and soon the answer came to me: Amaryllis bulbs. Something I could order immediately, plant indoors, and enjoy while the garden was still a frozen wasteland. It was a little late to order Amaryllis – most varieties were sold out – but I was still happy with the selections I made.
An important point of clarification here: these are not Amaryllis Amaryllis. These are Hippeastrum Amaryllis. As with Geranium/Pelargonium, this is an instance where the taxonomists couldn’t make up their minds for decades but in the end us ordinary gardeners have to live with the confusion and fear of using the wrong name, as if it were out fault.
Hippeastrum, what we normally call Amaryllis, is a genus of plants from Central and South America. In the Northern Hemisphere, we grow them to bloom indoors during the winter. Amaryllis is a genus of plants from South Africa, generally grown outdoors.
Anyway, I ordered a total of seven bulbs from John Scheepers. I was excited when the box arrived on Friday.
Yesterday I potted up the newly arrived bulbs. I used ceramic pots that had been brought in for the winter.
The potted bulbs are sitting on the dining room table. Now every morning I can examine them minutely for signs of growth. Having plants to obsess over helps me maintain my mental equilibrium.
There’s more sun on the back porch but it tends to be too cold for tropical and sub-tropical bulbs to break dormancy. The light in the dining room has proven to be adequate in the past.
I’m trying out a new variety called ‘Picotee’. I was drawn to the pictures of big white flowers with crimson edges on the John Scheepers website. This is a late-blooming Royal Dutch Single Amaryllis. It generally takes two months or more to flower. That’s OK, though – if they bloom between February and early March, we can enjoy the flowers just as we need them the most.
The second variety I ordered is ‘Trentino’, a Christmas flowering Amaryllis. It should bloom in four to six weeks. ‘Trentino’ has smaller 4″ flowers on stems about 14″ high.
The last variety I got is ‘Miracle’, what I think of as a more traditional Christmas blooming Amarillys with big 7″ red flowers.
In the past I’ve been very bad about saving Amaryllis bulbs over the summer, but this year I resolve to do better.
The British botanist William Herbert gave the genus Hippeastrum its name, which comes from the Greek for knight’s star. The connection to knights has been puzzling people ever since, but the flowers have a starlike shape and quality. Certainly their satiny texture, rich colors, and generous size gladdens the winter-weary.
Are you planting Amaryllis/Hippeastrum this winter?