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Amaryllis: Dramatic Winter Color
This winter I've gone crazy over Amaryllis. I've had one for four years my friend Vijaya gave me, that bloomed the first two years without any particular attention from me. The third winter, it didn't — and so when fall came round again this year, I decided to see what I could do about it. It wasn't going dormant all by itself, so I withehld water to force dormancy. But I started a little late — in October. And then I started watering it again after only two weeks dormancy, impatient for bloom. (It needed more like two months.)

In November I started reading better about what these plants need, and also discovered that both Whiteflower Farm and were selling really huge bulbs. I bought a bunch, and then I kept finding people I wanted to give them away to. (I wasn't too unhappy when put them on half-price sale; I bought some more for me.)

I staggered their bloom times by putting them in varying light. Peachy-pink Suzanne, on my office desk (looming over my monitor) never gets any direct sunlight at all, but she does get a lot of North light, and opened her bright faces well ahead of some of the ones in the sunny bay window that are shadowed by other plants. Except for a couple of miniatures, they all have blooms six to eight inches across — four to six a stem — and many have put up two flower stems.

The red one here was the fist to bloom. I have no idea what variety it is, because it was supposed to be white with pink brushings on it: 'Apple Blossom.' When I told that it wasn't, they sent three more; we'll see what they turn out to be! But I like the unnamed one a lot too; it has such a clear cherry red, with no hint of scarlet, which is more common in amaryllis.

I gave elder daughter Wendy a bulb of 'Hercules.' She says she should call the plant Audrey (after the plant in Little Shop of Horrors) because it's taking over her living room.

They certainly are commanding presences. Every morning when I get up I make the rounds: turning them all so they won't fall over by reaching for the light; observing the progress of each bud, the markings on each bloom; greeting them all by name because they seem such unique and glorious beings.

They do tend to grow tall; especially when I've not given them much sun; and since the flower stems lean an amazingy amount during the day, seeking the sun, I have to turn the pots carefully to keep them moving back toward vertical, so they don't fall over. Sometimes I have to rely on stakes, or propping them against furniture. Suzanne occasionally needs to lean on my computer monitor; I don't mind, she's good company.

11 March 2000