Gardener's Notebook - Amaryllis bulbs a winter favourite

Winter has now arrived, and it’s a good feeling to let our gardens rest (and we gardeners as well!) from a busy season. This is a good time to reflect on this past year, and make notes in our gardening journals about what was a success in our gardens, and things that just didn’t work the way we hoped they would. We always think we’ll remember, but when spring comes and we are all excited about the new gardening season, it is easy to get caught up with ideas and forget about the “forget about it” ideas of last year!

A very dear friend of ours recently gave us an amaryllis bulb. We were eager to plant it! This particular “kit” came with compressed coco fiber rather than soil, and the coco was almost like a hockey puck! Instructions said to soak the coco in warm water for half an hour, and lo and behold, suddenly there was a planter full of damp, rich material in which to plant our bulb. It will be fun to see it as it grows! Because, after all, it is only 33 days till the shortest day of the year, and after that, don’t we all feel that spring is starting to be closer?

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I did some homework about the amaryllis, and found out lots of interesting information! First of all, I thought an amaryllis is an amaryllis. Not so. Even though the bulbs we buy are called “amaryllis”, they actually belong to the hippeastrum family, while “amaryllis” also refers to South African bulbs that are considered outdoors plants in warmer climates. I started to read the botanical debate about the names, but it seemed very complicated. So it seemed to me that, like so many things in life, we don’t need to over-think them, just enjoy them!

The amaryllis bulbs that we get here have long been a winter favorite because they are easy to grow and reward us with beautiful, showy trumpet-shaped flowers. Amaryllis should be planted with the tip of the bulb above the soil line. It likes bright light, but not in direct sun. I read that we shouldn’t water it too much until we see the new shoot emerge, then after that it will need more water on a regular basis. As the shoot gets taller and begins to bud, we should turn the container so the stalk will grow straight and not begin to lean in to the light.

After six to eight weeks, we’ll have a bold and beautiful bloom to brighten the winter days!

When the flowers begin to fade, they may not fade all at once. We can cut off each spent bloom, and then, once every flower on the stem is done blooming, we can cut the stem to two or three inches above the bulb. Does this mean that our bulb is finished? Not at all.

We can continue to water the bulb, and even give it a little shot of fertilizer. Later on, into spring and summer, it will send out leaves, and these will provide energy to the bulb. By mid-August, we should stop watering the plant, and let the leaves die.

Then, we should put the container in a dark and cool spot for about eight weeks. Count on the calendar, now: that takes us to about mid-October, more or less. Then we bring it out, and start watering it again, just as we did when we first planted it. And so the circle continues, and hopefully the bulb will reward our efforts with another round of blooms!

Visit the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society at www.yorktonhort.ca and see what’s new. Still no live meetings planned; but see the list of gardening sessions available online with Lyndon Penner from the U of S.  There are also other programs available for distance learning, including garden fundamentals and botanical Latin. Check the University site listed on our website for all the details.

Thank you to our friends at the Yorkton This Week for their wonderful work. Let us pray for health and brighter times ahead. Have a great week!

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