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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Amaryllis and recycled Buttercrunch

                                   Amaryllis from 2008; background recycled lettuce in pots.

This Amaryllis, as probably my well-schooled readers know, is not an amaryllis ( though a member of the Amaryllidaceae family) it’s a Hippeastrum. It has a romantic history, a blooming present and bright future.

 Many of us have been fortunate enough to get them as Christmas presents. This one came from  White Flower Farms, What makes it special is that it has survived and flourished in this large pot for 2 years. Having planted countless amaryllis over the last 100 years only to have them devoured by snails ( poisons also poison the birds who eat the snails---and this is the house that Jack built)--- this blooming pair is a major event. What you can’t see in the photo is a line of copper tape just below the rim of the pot. Snails won’t cross copper. (Works on raised beds too--more on that later.)

Romantic history. Named for a nymph, if you call it an amaryllis (see Robert Graves The Greek Myths) or a ”horseman’s star” if you prefer to be more exact and call it a Hippeastrum which may be  a hybrid from the original S. African bulb brought back to England by plant explorers sent out by Joseph Banks, Darwin’s shipmate on the Beagle.

The bulb was hybridized by the Dutch early on with bulbs from Mexico and S. America ( W ) creating the present spectacular beauties. Read all about plant explorers in a charming new book for gardeners—especially cold climate gardeners—Paradise Under Glass by Ruth Kassinger. Ruth has done her homework—there’s an excellent bibliography.

Recycled lettuce:The lettuce in background pots came from the rescued root of a Buttercrunch lettuce from the supermarket (Von’s). After the original leaves went into salads,  the root was planted in the pot, left in filtered shade and watered. The heads filled out and grew---there’s always enough for a sandwich available by the kitchen door.

There seems to be conflicting info on whether the plant we are talking about is actually a hybrid, or simply another bulb entirely originating in the New World. Any botanists out there, please check in! The Dutch growers call it amaryllis, but note it’s official name is Hippeastrum . That works for me.

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