Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Hippeastrum on the Shelf

My favorite winter flower grows in pots in my house - on the floor, in the window sill, on the table. I'd never grown amaryllis before last winter, but when I saw 'Papilio' in a Dutch Gardens catalog, I had to have it. Wearing stripes, as I like to do, it was a flower after my own heart. But it did not come without a price. I think it was $25, and that was more than I wanted to risk on something I knew very little about.

I shopped around the web and found one for $9 and I ordered it. Once it was here, I had to decide if I was going to suspend it on pebbles with just its roots in the water, or pot it up in soil. Since I wasn't planning on discarding the bulb once it was done blooming, I decided to plant it in a pot. By putting it in soil, I could water and feed it once it was finished blooming and the bulb would store up strength for next year's bloom.

About seven weeks later, I was rewarded for my efforts with a bloom every bit as lovely as its pictures. 'Papilio' means 'butterfly' in Latin, and we enjoyed its fluttery beauty for about two weeks. And now I was hooked. I wanted more. Walmart had the more common large-blooming varieties, such as 'Red Lion', 'Apple Blossom', 'Dazzler', and 'Minerva', and of course, there were all kinds to be had from online stores. I purchased a few more and by the end of the winter, we had had an amaryllis in bloom at any given time from Christmas on.

When it got warm enough outside, I took all my hippeastrum bulbs (that's the botanical name for the amaryllis we're talking about here) and planted them in the ground in my garden. I didn't expect them to bloom in the summer, but I did want them to have the benefit of the sunshine and nutrients from the soil and rain. And if I got lucky, maybe they would multiply by producing little offset bulblets.

When the cooler weather of fall arrived about the beginning of October, I dug up the bulbs, cut the foliage down to the top of the bulb, shook the soil off, and put them in mesh bags to store in my dark, cool basement. I left them there for about two to three months, watching for any signs of them starting to grow again. Early in December, a couple of them started to push some foliage out the top, which was my signal to pot them up again and start the blooming cycle once more.

I got a few new ones this year, of course, and we've once again enjoyed blooms pretty much the entire time since Christmas. One, in particular - 'Royal Velvet' - had me oohing and ahhing so much that Romie said one night after I'd commented for the umpteenth time what a luscious color it was, "I'm glad you're getting so much enjoyment out of that." And I really was. I couldn't stop looking at it. It was as if by looking at it so intently it would reveal the secret to its beauty. It never did, of course, but then a provocative lady never tells all her secrets, does she?

Last fall, during a visit to Mitchell Books in Fort Wayne, 'Papilio' once again caught my eye. She was the cover girl of Starr Ockenga's book, Amaryllis. Ahhh...there was another amaryllis addict. Bought the book. Drooled over it all the way home.

And now I present to you some of the members of my Harem of Hippies:


Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Wow Kylee, you've got quite a collection there. And how very very pretty they all are. That Royal Velvet one ........I'm speechless.

Anonymous said...

Those are beautiful pictures of gorgeous flowers. Thanks for sharing them!

Sisah said...

Wonderful photos you made of these "Sch├Ątzchen". I discovered a new kind of hippeastrum only last year and was as enthusiastic as you are. Now I am searching for other types, but here in Germany all websites I found the most beautiful types were sold out!

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