{ Posts Tagged ‘amaryllis’ }

‘Tis the season for holiday plants

With Remembrance Day behind us and Halloween firmly in the past, it is time for many of us to get into the full swing of all things Christmas.

I’ve got my poinsettia going, and my baby rosemary plants are putting on new growth. Now it’s time to try something else: forcing bulbs.

I’ve never grown an amaryllis or anything like that, but this year I thought I’d try paperwhites. I’m a die hard daffodil fan, so these cousins (Narcissus papyraceus) aren’t too far outside my comfort zone.

The little gift pack I stumbled across at Walmart for five bucks actually came with a pot and a disk of compressed coir, but many people plant the bulbs in a dish of water topped up with pebbles or marbles for stability. My kit says to plant them six weeks before you want blooms; most people on the Interweb say three weeks, so I’m doing it today and we’ll see.

I decided to ditch the coir and pot that came with the kit and do something prettier.

I put a shallow layer of stones in this (plastic-lined) dish, placed the bulbs, then covered them up to their "shoulders" in more stones and added just enough water to keep their bottoms wet.

I did find an intriguing tip for keeping blooming paperwhites from getting top-heavy –get them ever so slightly drunk. But as to why paperwhites are thought of as a Christmas flower, I couldn’t find any clues other than they bloom in December in warm climates. There doesn’t seem to be any special symbolism.

Poinsettias symbolized purity to the ancient Aztecs, and there’s the usual holly and ivy to represent eternity and resurrection. Evergreen trees fall into the same category. But amaryllis? Christmas Rose (Serissa or Helleborus, depending on who you ask)? Christmas cactus? We just seem to be looking for something alive and lovely in the dark winter months.

Fair enough. We were pretty excited when Chris got a zygocactus (Schlumbergera) blooming again.

Rosemary babies in the background!

At least, he’s the one who rescued the poor little guy. It was languishing in a corner after being relocated during the ever-present renovations, and he moved it to his studio where it gets bright, indirect light. He’s taking full credit for the transformation; I think he accidentally did exactly what it needed. 

But I’m not complaining. It’s pretty exciting to have so many things growing when there’s carols on the radio and four inches of snow.

Highlights from the Evergreen Festival

Last week, I was thrilled to be a part of Elaine Martin aka The Vintage Gardener's Evergreen Festival. I helped Elaine as she demonstrated how easy it is to put together gorgeous holiday urns and I also presented a little session on forcing amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs for the holidays.

My assistant editor, Jen Murray, came along to videotape my seminar (which we'll be posting soon!) and we took lots of snaps of Elaine's beautiful holiday fair, some of which I've displayed below.

Fellow gardening writer, Mark Disero, also published his take on the day.

Me posing with a couple of urns that were created during Elaine's presentation.

Me posing with a couple of urns that were created during Elaine's presentation.

One of Elaine's gorgeous evergreen carts where you could pick and choose what you wanted to use to create wreaths, urns, bows, etc.

One of Elaine's gorgeous evergreen carts where you could pick and choose what you wanted to use to create wreaths, urns, garlands, bows, etc.

One of the lovely pots Elaine helped me create as I explained how to force amaryllis bulbs. You can't see them, but they're hiding among the greenery and will grow around the branches in this lovely arrangement.

One of the lovely pots Elaine helped me create as I explained how to force amaryllis bulbs. You can't see them, but they're hiding among the greenery and will grow around the branches in this lovely arrangement.

Visit the Evergreen Festival November 18-19 for holiday decorating ideas

I think it was back in September that Elaine Martin from Vintage Gardener asked me to help out with her Evergreen Festival. I happily accepted because I love anything to do with decorating for Christmas. I also really admire Elaine's style, creativity and her entrepreneurial spirit. We first met at a Vintage Gardener event in February that I went to with my mom. As Elaine demonstrated how to force branches and create interesting arrangements, each spring-filled pot was snapped up by a guest before she'd even finished with it!

The Evergreen Festival takes place next Wednesday and Thursday (November 18 and 19) at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto's Distillery District. There will be a stage with chairs so you can watch holiday decorating presentations by Elaine, Gemini Nominee Ambrose Price and others. I will be presenting a seminar on forcing paperwhites and growing amaryllis!

There will also be a French-style market with flower carts where you can make your own bows from ribbon, wreaths, evergreen miniatures and more! Partial proceeds from the event will be given to the new Ronald McDonald House.

For anyone in the GTA who is interested in attending next week, I have 5 pairs of tickets to give away! Leave a comment below telling me how you use evergreens and other florals to decorate for the holidays. I will randomly draw 5 names on Monday.

The image on the promotional postcard was part of Elaine's spread in the November issue of Style at Home.

The image on the promotional postcard was part of Elaine's spread in the November issue of Style at Home.


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A fresh start

As the old year limped to a close, many looked ahead to 2009 with either trepidation or hope.

The scary global economy is something to give everyone pause, especially if you’ve lost 35 per cent or more of the value of your investments, as so many people have. However, we’ve all taken the hit in one way or another, so I guess it’s a level playing field of sorts.

You see, I definitely belong to the hopeful group; an incorrigible Pollyanna, the original cup-is-half-full kind of gal. And I’m looking forward to this year, which I know for me will be filled with new adventures. On January 22, I’m leaving my job as editor-in-chief of the magazine and striding forth into the great unknown.

But meanwhile, there’s the post-Christmas stuff to face. I need to start thinking about taking down the tree and putting away the colourful ornaments for another year. And after the reds and bright lights of the holidays, this is a time when I crave not more colour, but white. Perhaps it’s a symbol of purity for the as-yet blemish-free new year. I especially love to buy white amaryllises–I’m not quite ready for fragrant spring blooms, but the stately, scentless white blossoms of amaryllis feel just right–almost like trumpets to herald in the new year. There’s a little flower market not far from me that carries them for just $6.99; a real bargain, for just one plant brings pleasure for weeks.

I used to save my amaryllis bulbs and try to get them to reflower, but I had limited success with this (despite my cosseting, too many of them came up blind). So now, most of the time I enjoy them, then toss them into the compost. Happy New Year.

Repotting my amaryllis

I'm going to re-pot my amaryllis bulb (which has been in a dark room in a basement since last winter). I took a look at an article from the archive, and then asked Anne Marie if she has any recommendations for repotting. Here is what she had to say:

  • Repotting is fine in the late fall. The bulbs should have been dormant long enough by now so that the flower buds have formed.
  • Use a good sterilized houseplant soil and just move the bulb into a pot that is slightly larger. Amaryllis like to be in a small pot for their size (and often are top heavy because of this).
  • Clean off the old soil from the bulb roots and replant it so that ½ to ¼ of the bulb is showing above the soil. Firm the soil and water well.
  • Once a flower bud or leaves start to show, give it a diluted half-strength fertilizer application every week.
  • For reblooming bulbs, many times the leaves will grow first instead of the flower stalk. Move the bulb to a warm, bright location and enjoy.

Last year my sister’s amaryllis had three huge blooms while my bulb grew a sorry-looking little shoot. My hope is that mine measures up this year.