My first Amaryllis bloomed today. It’s a beautiful candy-striped variety named ‘Minerva’ that I picked up in the discount bin our our local garden center a few weeks ago. It was on sale because it had already started to sprout and wouldn’t make the best holiday gift plant if it bloomed before Christmas. So there it sat with other early premature bloomers, marked down to $5 a bulb.
You might be wondering why this is my first Amaryllis. It’s not exactly an uncommon plant, and I’ve been gardening for most of my 40 years on this earth. Well, it’s because I’ve never taken Amaryllis seriously. They make me giggle like a ten year old because of an Amaryllis my mother grew when we were kids. It was nicknamed Willie. For those of you unfamiliar with the growth habit of Amaryllis, it’s ….well…..rather pornographic. Picture a long, thick fleshy stem growing out of a light brown, scaly bulb about the size of a … fist. At the end of this stem is a large swelling flower bud. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Willie grew on a table next to one of our dining room windows, and provided inspiration for countless hours of juvenile entertainment around the dinner table. I haven’t been able to look at an Amaryllis with a straight face since.
Fast forward about 25 years to when I first met Kylee Baumle, a fellow gardener who blogs over at Our Little Acre. Kylee and I bonded immediately over our love for gardening, photography and writing and I now consider her one of my closest friends. The reason I’m bringing her into this sordid story, is because Kylee is a bit of an Amaryllis aficionado. In her own words, she’s loved Amaryllis as long as she’s been gardening. I can’t remember exactly how many bulbs she grows every year, but it’s many more than a handful. I’ve been tempted to make the four-hour trip just to see them in bloom.
Kylee’s enthusiasm for the Hippaestrum genus and her continual entreaties that “You have to try Amaryllis!” are the reason I took a second look at those castoff early bloomers in the discount bin. Aside from an agreement to disagree on the subject of chartreuse plants, I tend to listen to Kylee when she gets excited about plants.
For the past three weeks, I’ve watched ‘Minerva’ continue to grow on the window seat in our bedroom. And, yes, there have been several cases of stifled giggles. But this morning, after viewing ‘Minerva’ blooming in the filtered winter sunlight, I’m a convert. My giggles turned to pure admiration.
You have to try Amaryllis!