Last year, my beloved son used all of the cheddar for cheese on beans on toast for lunch on Xmas Eve. The following day when I went to the fridge for ingredients, I returned empty handed. I love my boy but I’m aware of his short term relationship with anything that he finds in my kitchen. I have just received a number of juicy looking packets as gifts and unless I get them planted quickly, I’m likely to find that they have been anointed with the last of the cream, grilled and eaten.
This year’s Hippeastrum (amaryllis)
Hippeastrum (amaryllis) are usually sold in kit form with a tiny plastic pot without drainage holes and a few teaspoons of thin compost. First step is to drill into the base of the container, provided that the festivities to date haven’t left you with trembling hands and blurred eyesight. If you can’t see straight or are otherwise discomforted by too much food and drink, go and get one from the potting shed. Clean the vessel with washing up liquid, since bugs from outside may go ballistic in the warmth of your house. Fill with potting compost, mixed with a little bone meal. Don’t add too much fertiliser, as Sod’s Law says that the suspicious smell will outweigh the pleasure to be obtained from luscious but sadly unperfumed blossom.
Plant the bulb well down in the soil, with its neck and shoulders exposed. Firm it down gently and avoid damaging the roots. If you add a stake to support the bloom, you will avoid injuring essential growing parts later but your naked stick may look a little silly. If you insert the post once growth is underway, you risk spearing something important. The choice is yours. Water sparingly since too much moisture, especially when there are no leaves, will make the whole plant rot. Regularly feel the compost with your fingers, to check that it is not too dry or too wet. Put the pot inside a waterproof container and place it in a bright position such as a sunny windowsill but not near a radiator. Turn it occasionally, so that the foliage and stems don’t all lurch to one side. If you get it right, the plant will bloom in six to eight weeks after starting the whole procedure. Move it into a cooler location once the buds break and you will extend the performance. After flowering, keep it just moist and allow the leaves to wither and die back. Store the bulb in a cool, dry place and start the rigmarole again in late autumn.
Amaryllis was a nymph who gave her heart to Alteo, who didn’t return her affections. Another doomed love story, the flower represents pride, determination and radiant beauty. If you get a second season from it, you are entitled to all three. I apologise for the title of this piece and the implied reference to a nasty song devoid of lyrical or musical merit; I feel cheap, conceited and dirty.