Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Monday, December 29, 2008


A few amaryllis bulbs transform my living room into a plant conservatory for at least six weeks in winter. I buy and plant them in mid-November, leaving their shoulders and necks exposed. When they hit daylight and drink some water the flower buds shoot up.
It’s not too late to get amaryllis started in January. Those you buy now have gone through a dormancy period at the bulb company and are ready to spring into flower.
Since flower stalks usually appear before foliage, I sometimes display amaryllis with houseplants and other winter experiments. Here from left , pineapple top rooting in a dish, hyacinth bulbs forcing in water, my aged
succulent carrion flower
(Stapelia gigantea)
in bud, and a cutting
from Ming Aralia rooting
in a vase.

The Stapelia bud soon
blooms like a giant
starfish, and
compliments the
amaryllis flower.

For the coffee table,
I stake the bare
amaryllis stems
with a few branches
trimmed from my
rooftop bayberry bush .
The branches help
support the green
stems, smell delicious,
and add visual interest.
Or I place an amaryllis
next to a few paper-
whites that have foliage
to spare.

If I’m fed up with an ungainly amaryllis that shoots too tall, I whack off the stem and treat it as a short cut flower. In water it will last at least two weeks.

When I lived in my
1850’s farmhouse,
the kitchen had a
walk-in fireplace
with no damper
on the flue. Cool
air poured down
in fall and winter.
Original pine folding
doors cut off the draft
from the rest of the
house. It was the per-
fect place to give
amaryllis bulbs the
cool, dark, and dry
they need to go
dormant before they
could re-bloom.In my
NYC condo it’s always
hot, with storage
space more precious
than diamonds. In a
gesture of extrava-
gance I consign bulbs
to the compost bin
after they finish
showing off each
winter. So sue me!


Anonymous said...

Simply beautiful. Who needs Central Park?

Anonymous said...

Many people feel badly about discarding Holiday bulbs as well as the Phalaenopses in the EZ earlier post when they drop the blossoms. The same people may have no problem throwing away a cut flower display after a week. In todays market they all cost about the same. In truth the bulbs and orchids are a better value when you consider the amount of time they last in good condition. If you can keep the plants over for another year, so much the better.


Ellen Zachos said...

I couldn't agree more, Alan. I know some people love cut flowers, but I much prefer a plant that lasts for years.

Anonymous said...

It's tough to toss away something that has potential but urban gardeners definitely have to make choices because of limited space. Better to grow and toss than not to grow at all. :-)

I often ask around to see if any green-thumbed friends are interested in a bulb for next year. I also know people who after the bulbs bloom, put amaryllis in with their tropical houseplants, much as you noted before blooming.

I've thought of trying FreeCycle to see if anyone who come by for my past-prime amaryllis. But haven't tried it yet.

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Judy, just to let you know I'm not all about waste and destruction, I often recycle found plant materials, and not just in the compost bin. Last night walking home from a New Year's Eve concert at a local church, trailed by 8 friends expecting some tasty desserts, I spied a 10'bare birch(?)lying on the sidewalk. No roots, just trunk and branches. Despite the jeers of the throng I broke off several branches about 16" long. They now reside in a contemporary glass vase on an antique Japanese chest. Perfect!

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