It all started with this book and a character named Amaryllis Minton.
I don’t remember what age I was when I read it for the first time (our step-grandmother had a collection of Gene Stratton-Porter books, and the order in which I read them is fuzzy), but it became one of my favorite childhood books.
In the story, there’s a boy and a girl (Amaryllis) and a garden. The boy goes off to Europe to study violin, and the girl promises him she will meet him back in the garden one day.
I enjoyed all of Stratton-Porter’s books – Freckles, Girl of the Limberlost, Laddie, Daughter of the Land, and the rest. I’ve been collecting the books one by one, with help from my sister on a few birthdays, and hope that my children will reach for them and get lost in the stories, as I did. And The Magic Garden, even though it’s a simple story – or maybe because it is – remains my favorite.
So I fell in love with a story, and amaryllis.
In my twenties, I started a tradition of planting at least one bulb every year so that it would bloom around the holidays. Most years, though, I end up with three or four varieties spread throughout the house.
Red is my favorite color, so I have a soft spot for the bold, boisterous Red Lion variety, but there’s another amaryllis I think I like even more. It’s this one, the Ludwig Dazzler – pure white with a pale yellow-green throat. For the same reason that Haagan Dasz vanilla is my favorite ice cream, this is my favorite flower (though wild violets do bump up against it for the top spot).
When I plan ahead, I order from Amaryllis Bulb Company. They have an amazing selection, and I’ve always had beautiful, plentiful blooms from their bulbs. (Since I’ve never quite mastered the skill of keeping bulbs alive from one year to the next, I’m a good customer.) This year, though, time slipped away a little and I ended up picking up a couple of Smith & Hawkins bulb kits today at Target.
So this afternoon, I started with this:
and did a little of this…
and ended up with these…
I haven’t done any gardening here in Arizona, unless you count pulling weeds, so it’s the only time I really get to feel the soil in my hands.
My kids like to watch the stalks shoot up over the weeks. They watch their growth almost as closely as I do, and help me water the bulbs. We use festive wired ribbon to tie the stalks to thin dowels for support and wait day after day for the blooms to spread open.
Eventually they do, and somewhere in those weeks, when no one is watching, a tradition takes hold.
And when one of them picks up his or her first Gene Stratton-Porter book and curls up somewhere comfortable to read it, so will another.
Along with any comments you have, I’d also love to know if any of you have read these books?