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Bay Window Flowers

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Wednesday, January 21, 2001

Some people need to supplement the light they get in winter; I need to make sure I don’t get deficient in flowers. Without them I just don’t function as well. Luckily I have a bay window that gets quite sunny when the maple in front of it is bare.

I bring in the potted geraniums that in summer sit on my front steps; they don’t bloom so much in winter, but even a few of their intense, hot pink pompoms are delicious. And I buy some miniature ‘Tete-a-tete’ Narcissus in bloom; there’s something so heart-warming about these tiny, bright yellow daffodils. When the flowers fade I let them go dormant, not watering them after the leaves begin to yellow; then I plant the bulbs outdoors in autumn.

There are several plants I allow myself to buy in order to have flowers in winter, that I haven’t yet managed to keep healthy, and they end up on the compost pile. Pointsettias, Kalanchoe, Hydrangeas, Cyclamen.... They do last a lot longer than cut flowers, at least. But there’s one plant that should do well in the house, that I’m just learning about.

Amaryllis bloom naturally in the winter, in a variety of reds, oranges, pinks and white — with stripes and shadings from the delicate to the flamboyant. The flowers, which come before the leaves, last longer if the plant is in moderate light, but when the flowers fade, the leaves needs to drink in a lot of sun so the plant can replenish its energy and bloom again. Some liquid fertilizer is good, too.

In late summer they normally need to go dormant for at least a month. Withhold water. The leaves will yellow and fall off; then the bulb wants to be in a cool, dry place for a couple of months. This is the time to repot; if you do, add a tablespoon of bonemeal.

Put it back in the light and water it sparingly: six weeks later, you get those incredible flowers again. Top-size bulbs (34 centimeters in circumference) give blooms six to eight inches across, four or five to a flower stem, and two flower stems, 16 to 20 inches tall. Glorious, commanding presences.

Caring for Amaryllis isn’t hard, it’s just a matter of establishing a routine. So far, I haven’t got that part down yet. But last winter I went crazy and bought a lot of them, so I hope I learn.

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark