Ignorance is bliss. As the garden shivers and crackles under a freezing blanket of cold the wise gardener will hunker down indoors and enjoy the luxury of a warmer, climate controlled gardening experience. Outdoors he can’t do anything but wait for the damage to show but indoors he can at least tweak the thermostat a little higher and take another sip of coffee… spiked or unspiked depending on the latest weather report.
I’ve been a little too excited about the new amaryllis I bought this winter and in my excitement ended up bringing the older bulbs out and giving them a little water too. In a normal year I just throw the dormant bulbs outside in April and let them bloom right alongside the tulips, but this year I thought ‘the more the merrier’ and as a result I’m ending the winter with an amaryllis (Hippeastrum) extravaganza. I’ve had these bulbs at least seven years now and if I remember to give them a little attention after flowering they reward me each spring with a fantastic color show.
It sounds slightly ungrateful but of all the colors, Christmas red and snowy white are not what I’m normally looking for come springtime. This of course was not what I was considering years ago when I picked the bulbs up for $1 a piece at some box-store clearance shelf… but please humor me as I shamelessly brag about how well they are doing now. Each pot is already showing at least four bloom stalks a piece, and the plants themselves are on the verge of nearly overwhelming the dining room table, even with less than half the flower stalks open. On the edge of the group you barely notice the last of the newbies, a delicate pink-flushed mini white named ‘Trentino’.
Once it warms up outside (assuming it ever does) new and old amaryllis will all go out into a semi-shaded spot, get hooked up to the same drip irrigation system that waters the summer annuals, and will be ignored until November. If I feel generous I’ll send some liquid fertilizer their way but for the most part they’re on their own. If there’s a trick to it all I guess it’s that they sit in a gritty, peat-free soil mix which drains well, and they have a nice solid terracotta pot which breathes well and holds down their heavy tops. Well drained, plenty of moisture, and a good feeding… mine enjoy that.
You may notice the attractive plastic sheeting which forms a subtle backdrop to the amaryllis photos. The sheeting keeps the dust and debris of a kitchen remodel from drifting into the rest of the house, and also keeps us from enjoying the charms of a useable sink or stove. If I try hiding indoors too long from the brutality of our latest arctic blast, eventually I need a new place to hide from the mayhem a kitchen run out of the living room…. so I escape to the garage and the winter garden.
For a while the winter garden was being ignored. Spring was early and I was back outside enjoying snowdrops, then crocus, and then daffodils… but now winter is back and I’m pretending it didn’t all happen and I’m just doing the regular sowing and repotting of late winter. Because I foolishly brought sprouting bulb seedlings in during a December freeze I’m now at the point where I can dig seedlings out and see what grew. Here’s a mixed potful of one and two year old Allium Christophii bulblets which just recently went dormant. I’m fascinated even though a less than polite reader might point out I could get a bagful of blooming sized bulbs for under $10 this fall.
I find it interesting that even though I sowed the seeds shallowly, most have migrated to the very bottom of their four inch pots. Readers of Ian Young’s Bulb Log at the Scottish Rock Garden Club will already know this since Mr. Young has observed this repeatedly, but for me to see it myself is of course more fun.
I was also happy to find one of my fall snowdrops has made a nice sized offset. I would have thought the double shoot from the top would have split the bulb into two, but instead it has just sprouted a new bulb off to the side. So I guess that means there will be three growing tips next fall!
Not all my escape gardening happens in seclusion. Occasionally I have a helper and this year that helper has been assisting in writing out some of the many plant labels which go along with all the odds and ends which get seeded out. She may actually do a neater job than I do, and her talent for labeling in Latin is impressive.
Also impressive is one of my newest treasures. It’s a Cyclamen Rhodium seedling from my visit to John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens, and it’s blooming in spite of having been dumped out of its pot not even three minutes after John handed it off to me. He was very forgiving of my clumsiness, but I never did mention that I dumped it over again a second time as I got into my car. Fortunately it survived, and although John suggested that I give this one a try outdoors in a sheltered spot (planted six or more inches deep once it goes dormant), I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to risk its health a third time.
So that’s how things are going here in my own sheltered locations. I have some promising tomato seedlings sprouting as well as eggplant and peppers, but it will be a few days before the damage outside becomes definite. Already things such as roses, lilacs and daffodils look rough, but for as long as I can stay in denial I will. Maybe the hyacinth will bloom so much stronger next year now that their blooms have all been frozen off. A gardener can hope 🙂