Amaryllis this Morning

Ack! My Amaryllis bulb has officially left the station and is on track for another round. I bought the bulb as a post-Christmas gift to myself back in 2014. I always go into a bit of a funk after Christmas. After all the excitement of our kids coming home etc. there is that period in January where the place feels empty. I settle in for the long wait until spring with nothing but Facebook photos from friends and family in tropical places to keep me entertained.

My Amaryllis bulb helps get me through. Watching those thick green leaves knife their way towards the ceiling renews my faith in life. They grow so fast it is amazing. But then again, nature is always amazing. And then there is the Amaryllis blossom. There is nothing quite like it. Mine is a brilliant red and white. Very colourful against the white winter backdrop and very Canadian.

Last year after the foliage died down in the fall I let the bulb dry out a bit and then packed it in newspaper and put it down in our storage locker in the basement. After Christmas I brought it up and started the Amaryllis show all over again. I was smitten with the ritual and looked forward to repeating it for many seasons to come.

This fall it died down as usual and I kept meaning to remove it from its pot and put it into storage, but somehow I kept forgetting. Then disaster struck. A couple of weeks ago I forgot what I was doing and accidentally watered the Amaryllis pot. I should have yanked it up then and there, patted it dry and stored it. But I did not.

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This morning I woke up to this. Note the Amaryllis in the forefront in its white pot. It is no longer dormant. In fact, it is a full eight inches beyond dormant.

Get back in there! I told the leaf, very firmly I might add, but to no avail. The cycle has started and there was no growing back. Life is like that.

And then there is the Christmas cactus. No sooner had I noticed the Amaryllis than I looked down and spotted the Christmas cactus. Taking a leaf from Amaryllis’s book it has jumped into premature action as well.

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I rescued this cactus from a grocery store 15 years ago. It was mid-January and it was sitting all by its lonely self in a corner by the Valentine vases. To add insult to injury the forgotten Christmas cactus was marked down to a humiliating .49 cents. For an investment of a couple of quarters it has been faithfully blooming in our house around Christmas ever since. Until this year.  Maybe it has been watching all our October snow and decided its calendar was off.

Ah well, it is what it is. Let the blooms fly. Nature always has the final say, which is as it should be. Of course that doesn’t mean I won’t find another Amaryllis bulb or some such growing thing under the tree this Christmas for my January pick-me-up. Who knows, I might even find two.

 

Hyacinth Hives

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Hyacinth…beautiful to look at, beautiful to smell, but not so lovely to touch!

Last fall I ordered an assortment of hyacinth bulbs to force spring into our apartment once Christmas had been packed up and put away. Last night I went down to our storage locker in the basement where the bulbs have been stored and brought them up. I scrounged around for some suitable containers and started potting up the bulbs. Some of them already had a swollen tip showing they were all juiced up and ready to go.

I had planted about half the bulbs when I started to feel tingly. I chalked it up to the excitement of getting my hands on soil and growing things and continued on. The tingling turned into a burning sensation across my upper chest and neck. Soon it felt like fire ants had been dumped over my head and were slowly devouring me.

I excused myself from my planting operation and went to the washroom to have a look in the mirror. Holy smokes! My neck and chest were aflame and hives were popping up faster than dandelion blossoms in May. Obviously I was about to die.

Well, that’s what happens when you mess around with nature and force it to bloom before its time.

Just to be sure Darcy didn’t need to load me up in the car and careen across town to the hospital. I did a quick Google search. Sure enough, hyacinth bulbs are toxic and can be fatal if ingested. Fortunately I hadn’t snacked on any of the bulbs, so it looked like I might live another day.

Several people reported the oddity of touching the bulbs with their bare hands and getting rashes on their neck and chest, but strangely enough, not on their hands. I started to blame manmade chemicals coating the bulbs for some nefarious reason, but learned the culprit is simply the bulb itself. The remedy was to swallow down a couple Benadryl pills and wash my skin thoroughly with soap and water. It worked. An hour later the bulbs were planted (with plastic bags over my hands in lieu of gloves) and the burning sensation was pretty much over. The hives slowly faded while (hopefully) the bulbs began to purr and pop with life in the pots dotted about the apartment.

In the past I have planted hyacinth in the garden, but I suppose I was always wearing gloves. I had never bare handed them before.

This is what I love about gardening; there is always something new to be learned.  Provided it doesn’t kill you first!

If you have young children or pets you might want to avoid having these bulbs in your home altogether.

 

Hand planting bulbs

The bulbs pictured here are crocus…they are also poisonous if ingested but apparently they are okay to be handled bare handed. The same cannot be said for the lovely hyacinth!

Late Plantings

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We’ve had a couple skiffs of snow and are on our way into winter. So what did I do yesterday? And, for that matter, the week before? Planted lily of the valley pips and bulbs respectively. Yeesh. Note to self…stop ordering stuff from out east no matter how rare the item or how tempting the discount. Last week my order of allium bulbs finally arrived. The instructions enclosed mentioned allowing a few weeks for the bulbs to root before the cold hit. I planted them a little deeper and mulched them up with composted manure and a heaping helping of shredded leaves. We’ll see. The lily of the valley pips were backordered and just arrived yesterday. Despite temperatures above zero every day it has dipping low enough at night that when I went to my dwindling pile of manure it was already starting to freeze up so it was difficult to get even a bucketful of manure out of it. Poor pips. As with the bulbs, I covered them with a heavy mulch and can only hope for the best.

I got some of the healthiest lily of the valley plants I have ever seen from Rhubarb to Roses this summer, but these three little pip squeaks have pink blooms instead of the usual white. I couldn’t resist adding them to my collection. I spotted them in the fall bulb catalogue put out by Veseys in Charlottetown PEI.

It’s a chance you take when you buy from a nursery in zone 5. Veseys tell you they will ship according to zone but they can only ship as fast as they lift their bulbs and they have to wait for fall to settle in to do that. THEIR fall, not yours. I’m just lucky this wasn’t last year when we got a foot of snow mid-October and it never left until May.

The good thing about plants…and bulbs and pips, is that they have an incredible built-in will to survive against all odds. All I can do now is cross my fingers, toes and hoes and hope everything comes up roses…or rather alliums and lily of the valleys come spring. And buy local.

Hoping for something like this come spring!