Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Flaming Amaryllis

Well, here it is, the end of January, and the Amaryllis are just now bursting into bloom in our dining room! You're probably familiar with these striking blooms, since they appear most often in the big box stores just before the holiday season, packaged as inexpensive gifts. Though they're heavily marketed as a Christmas flower, they rarely seem to bloom on demand for the holidays unless you really get a head start on them. I found these at Lowe's in early December, and though I started them right away, they are just now coming into their own, which is fine by me, with the dreary, snowy and cold days of January coming to an end ... And they really add a lot of delicious red punch to any room where you might choose to grow them, provided you can give them a fair amount of sun (these are by the north window shelf in our house), ample water and a reasonable temperature (this room stays at about 60 degrees in winter).

If you've never grown Amaryllis, or if you're just plain intimidated by growing bulbs indoors, let me assure you that they are probably the easiest bulb you could ever dream of forcing into bloom! Unlike spring bulbs, which require an extended period of cold and darkness before blooming, Amaryllis can be brought into bloom several times a year if you play your cards right! The only real "trick" you need to master is to give them a rest for 3-4 months in a dark place (such as in a paper bag in the basement or closet) before bringing them into the light again and replanting them ... Just let them bloom their hearts out as long as they want, then remove the spent blooms and stalk ... then allow them to retain their leaves for at least a month or two (or as long as they look green and healthy) to let them store up food and energy for the next cycle of blooms. When the leaves start to look a bit on the wane, gradually decrease the water until they begin to die back. Eventually you'll want to just plain stop watering them ... I know it seems cruel, but all Amaryllis (whether winter hardy or not) require this particular step at the end of their bloom season. When the leaves dry up, simply cut them back to the top of the bulb base, remove the bulb from the potting medium and place it in a box or paper bag and put it in a dark, dry place ... and forget about them for the next 3-4 months!

Once they've completed their resting period, take them back out and repot them in the medium of your choice (I generally use peat moss), making sure that the top of the bulb is above the soil level. Give them a good watering, put them in a sunny window and within a week or so, you'll see the new leaves emerge ... and within about 5-6 weeks, you should have another glorious cycle of blooms burst forth! As the bulbs age and get larger, you'll often find that they may put up more than one bloom stalk per season, so you can get doubly rewarded if you treat them right .... In our experience, we've found that we can keep the bulbs for at least 3-4 years until they finally peter out and die. But for the meager investment you'll need to put into growing them (I usually find bulbs for $5 or less!), they give a lot more back than they require from you ... and once they start blooming, you can be virtually guaranteed a good 3-4 weeks of glorious flowers! Amaryllis come in a variety of colors, but we prefer the brilliant red varieties. (And yes, Olivia, they do come in pink variants, though we've never grown those.)

I'll probably continue taking more pictures of these over the coming weeks, so I can follow their progress ... at present we have 4 separate bulbs going in the dining room, so we're hoping we have flowers right up until March!

So, stop back for more views as the weeks pass ... even though we're still in the dead of winter, there are plants of interest still to come around our house. The hibiscus is currently in a resting phase, but is starting to put on more buds, so there should be some of those to come soon ... and with any luck, I'll have the long-promisid shots of the holly and berries up sometime!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Winter's Finally Here

Yes, I know it's been well over a month since I last posted, and I no longer have the holidays to blame for my slackerly behaviour. I've had many good intentions to start posting some film reviews (and they will happen soon, I promise!) but honestly, it's been a rough start to the new year for me. I won't go into long, whiny dissertations as to why, but suffice to say, I've just not been energized to keep up with things around the blogosphere. I've heard others say they need a blogging break from time to time, so let's just leave it at that.

On other fronts, however, we had such a mild December that we thought winter would never make it out here ... but au contraire, since January hit, we've been feeling it on a regular basis. From a New Year's Eve snow (we barely missed hitting a record for the lowest snowfall ever in December for our area), to present day, we've been having much more seasonal weather around the IVG homefront. And honestly, I've been rather glad we have. Olivia had told me back a few weeks ago that friends of hers in Toronto had daffodils coming up, which led me to panic that our bulbs would be trying to come up prematurely ... but fortunately, they are still apparently biding their time and staying below ground. And with the last few weeks' cold and snow, I'm not worrying about them trying to emerge before their appointed I write this, it's about 1 F with a windchill of -20 outside, some of the coldest weather we've had in quite some time.

So, with all our recent snows, the icicles are sure to come round... so this post will give you a sense of what has been dripping and freezing off the roof by our driveway... you can thank Fernymoss for the photos, since he's been around more during the day than I have, so he was able to capture this megacicle before it finally broke off and smashed itself into the driveway on Friday, when it got all the way up to 44 here. I'm sure there will be more soon, since we've plunged back down into the deep freeze... but hey, January may be almost done, but that doesn't mean there won't be many more snows. In fact, some years, February is snowier for us than January ... What will happen this year yet remains to be seen, but if the past few weeks are any indication, the groundhog will see his shadow on his appointed day.

And, you know, even if it does mean we have an extended winter, that's not such a bad thing. Since many of our plants do need a long cold period to complete their cycles, far be it from me to criticize, just because I don't want to have to dress warmly and just plain deal with winter, it's all part of the climate cycle that needs to happen for things to stay in balance.

Shameless plug here: our truly and honestly elected president in 2000 (we wuz robbedI) has been warning about such change for quite some time. And I'm thrilled that An Inconvenient Truth has been nominated for two Academy Awards! If you still haven't seen this alternately depressing, yet ultimately hopeful film, then get your butt out and either buy it or rent it as soon as possible! Fair minded people of any political stripe should be able to see, just from the evidence presented, that we are currently undergoing some major climatic changes that will affect our way of life in the near future. And if they can't acknowledge these simple truths, then perhaps we, as a species, don't really deserve to survive after all. Yep, that was harsh, but take a look at this map from the Arborday Foundation and see just how much our growing zones have changed in just the last 16 years! You don't have to be a weather geek like me to see that some profound changes are happening.

And the longer this delusional administration refuses to acknowledge the problem, the closer we skate toward the eventual abyss. Impeachment is not merely an option, it is a moral imperative! For our survival, and our future generation's survival, this evil puppet must be stopped!

Oh, and by the way, I hope you all had a happy new year's celebration ... Now it's time to get down to work and turn this country around and head us into a more positive direction. Let's make that our project for 2007 ....