Once a year

by Jennifer on November 23, 2008

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?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

kl November 23, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Could NOT believe my eyes when you referenced The Magic Garden. The books by GSP were precious, falling-apart pages/memories from my childhood as well. The boy who plays the piano in that book – oh my. What a story. I also planted my store-bought bulb yesterday and hope for the best. Thanks for bringing back such a dear memory, just in time to “give thanks” for Thanksgiving too!


Louise November 23, 2008 at 11:01 pm

I am growing my first amaryllis ever. I got it as a gift last year from Christmas, but it said it should be in a warm (70 degree) area. We know my winter house isn’t even close to that warm, so I waited. We travelled so much this summer that I didn’t want to start it. Then I forgot. I remembered when it was cold again. I wasn’t going to wait another year, so I planted it a couple of weeks ago. It’s about 10″ tall right now. I’m SO excited that I can hardly wait. It’s red. I’ve bought them for family members for Valentine’s Day before, but I’ve never had my own. The person who gave it to me saw it growing last week, and she was excited, too!

Because of your sister, I have two Gene Stratton Porter books, but I have not read them yet. The last book I read, I started right when I got them. I took one with me on two trips, but I had not finished the other book yet (The Far Pavillions). So it’s my next book. But I will admit that I didn’t have time before, but the whole blogging thing means I have less time. (Something is wrong there. I know.) But I can hardly wait.

I love it that you scatter these all over your house. I’m happy my ONE is still alive–that I remember to water it!

Louises last blog post..In Honor of My Mother’s Birthday


Jeni Stewart November 24, 2008 at 5:53 am

My mother read ‘Freckles’ to me when I was a kid – over 50 years ago! Wow, and I still remember it! Thanks for giving the author’s name, I never knew it, maybe I can look for a copy. My own children are grown, but I’d love to read it to my grandchildren!

Happy holidays


queenie November 24, 2008 at 9:47 am

Nope – never heard of them! But I’ll be looking out for them. Funny, I learned today of another book by the lady who wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy, which supposedly even better. It must be my day for the discovery of new old children’s classics!


queenies last blog post..new word; new lips


Lisa Milton November 24, 2008 at 10:17 am

I may have to check those out. I love those blooms.

Lisa Miltons last blog post..of turkey trots and rambling


Mrs. G. November 24, 2008 at 10:51 am

The Girl of the Limberlost is a personal favorite. I adore GSP!

Mrs. G.s last blog post..Things You Do Not Know About Mrs. G.


Madge November 24, 2008 at 2:33 pm

i didn’t know about the amaryllis….. wonderful. also, confession — i have never read GSP. shameful.

Madges last blog post..What Time Is It?


Rhea November 24, 2008 at 3:33 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever read Gene Stratton-Porter but I have grown an amaryllis from a bulb.

Planting and growing things is so therapeutic.

Rheas last blog post..Pink Light Sabers are used to fight Shame.


Lisa@verybusymomwith4 November 24, 2008 at 6:33 pm

I have not heard of any of those but they sound great 🙂

Lisa@verybusymomwith4s last blog post..That Fine Line Between Sanity and Insanity


the mama bird diaries November 24, 2008 at 9:02 pm

i think i may finally understand why people love to garden.

the mama bird diariess last blog post..green holiday gift idea for the kids


JCK November 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm

“The Magic Garden” sounds very familiar to me. The books sound delightful.

As for my own endeavors into gardening…let’s just say I have a BLACK thumb and leave it at that. But, I much admire the green thumbs like you!

JCKs last blog post..I’m glad you are excited about being 5 now


melissa November 25, 2008 at 9:50 am

Enjoy your blooms!


apathy lounge November 25, 2008 at 11:34 am

I remember finding my mother’s girlhood copy of “Girl of the Limberlost” and being absolutely enchanted by it. I still have the copy. What a find!

apathy lounges last blog post..White Meat or Dark: What’s THAT supposed to mean?


Suzanne November 26, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Okay, now I understand why you had all these books listed on GoodReads! I thought you were trying to send a subliminal message about an upcoming move!

I am also a great fan of amaryllis….they just say ‘Christmas’ to me. Oh and Paper Whites too!!!!!!!

Suzannes last blog post..Happy Thanksgiving: Let’s Count Our Blessings!


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