The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The grand amaryllis challenge

amaryllis set in caompostMy mum gave me two amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs at Christmas and finally today they have been set in a bed of compost. They will flower a bit later than usual but that’s fine with me.

We usually have a race to see whose amaryllis flowers first. A few years ago I was decorating her house and seemingly overnight her amaryllis developed a second bud. Neither of us had ever seen this wonder before.

Like many people nowadays she keeps her mind in trim by tackling The Times crossword every day. She does not get up in the morning until she has solved three clues. As I needed to paint her bedroom ceiling I encouraged her to get up and dress. That involved helping to solve the third clue that was puzzling her.

I’m no good at crosswords but good at using all help available, so I nipped downstairs to fetch the Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Within seconds we found the solution. I can’t remember the question but the answer was Zeno, the Greek philosopher.

She immediately christened the first amaryllis bud Zeno – a good strong name. She pondered for a few minutes and settled on Mincy for the second smaller, rather weedy bud. Danny and I had invested in a very disappointing mincer, which had sucky rubber feet that gripped the table as you minced. It was only stable if you turned the handle with the gentle touch of a fairy and finally we lost patience with the tremulous beast and it was jettisoned to Oxfam.

So each year the competition begins with setting the bulbs. Within a short while one or other of us is mentioning a Zeno. Perhaps amaryllis bulbs have changed as Mincy usually makes an appearance in both her town house and the cottage.

This year, I think that she gave me a fighting chance when she gave me two bulbs. My mum will win this year as her bulbs were tucked up weeks ago.

Update January 2001: I’ve just discovered that you can get outdoor hardy amaryllis bulbs. I’m very tempted to get some for the garden as they have a long flowering time from June to August.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Thank you so much for your advice. Really useful stuff for everyone that visits the site looking for expert knowledge. Much appreciated.

  2. Caroline

    Thank you for getting back to me Kate and Fn. Will follow your advice – off to pinch off the flower heads now then…

  3. Kate(uk)

    Hello Caroline-and Paula.
    Paula- clearing off all the soggy bits was good- put the bulb in a sunny spot with the bulb exposed to the sun ( roots still in soil), the sun will dry it out and the rot will stop, then you can top up the compost again. The bulb can recover from almost total destruction from rot as long as the root plate ( the bit at the bottom where the roots grow from) is ok. Some varieties do like to be drier and warmer than others, particularly the white/green/pale flowered ones. Keep it in the sun until it is nice and firm again and water it very sparingly until the flower stem is really growing well, they don’t like their feet sitting in water.The roots often do not start to grow until the bulb has flowered,some varieties well after flowering, which is rather unnerving and why they can so readily fall over! Don’t worry, the roots will come once the flowering is over and the bulb is happy.
    Caroline-pinch off the flowers but leave the stem to die back into the plant, remove it once it has withered away completely.You are aiming to keep the compost moist, not wet, they would rather be too dry than too wet, so don’t worry if you forget to water, the warmer and sunnier it is, the more water they will need, especially if you have the bulb in direct sun,if the leaves look firm and glossy, you have a well watered,well fed bulb. I stick my finger in the soil and if it feels moist I leave well alone!Keep it in a small pot too- it is so tempting to give them big pots, but they really do so much better in small ones.

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