I’ve had the amaryllis bulbs for three years now. They came to me at Christmas, gifts from my mom to be shared with my neighbour. The bulbs came in pretty boxes and needed only a pot and some soil, a sunny window, and a commitment to water once a week.
My neighbour and I entered into that December commitment and within weeks were rewarded by blooms. When they eventually shrivelled, when the stalks drooped and the leaves began to turn yellow, my neighbour handed her plant back to me rather than, as so often happens to Christmas bulbs, toss it in the garbage.
I tucked both her plant and mine on a window sill, watered them through the winter and then, when spring began to warm my balcony, set them together outside in new soil, a new shared pot. The bulbs thrived, or so I thought. Their leaves grew large and there were many spilling over the sides of the pot.
Come fall, thinking I knew a little about coaxing blooms from bulbs, I cut back the leaves, wrapped the pot in towel and left it undisturbed for eight weeks, taking it out just in time for a second Christmas bloom.
Once I brought it into the light, the leaves began to grow. But no straight stock shot out from the bulb. I tended the leaves til spring, then set the pot out on the sunny balcony for its summer sojourn. It’s leaves grew large and there were many more spilling over the sides of the pot.
This fall, realizing I didn’t know much about coaxing blooms from bulbs, I did more research. I cut back the yellowed leaves and lifted the bulbs from the soil. The two bulbs I’d begun with had been busy and now there were six bulbs, one the size of an apple, one the size of a plum and four tiny newborns.
I separated the bulbs, dusted the soil, cut back the dead roots and trimmed the living ones and then tucked the bulbs into a brown paper bag. I put the bag in the back of a dark closet and left the bulbs for an eight week nap.
I could hardly wait to wake them up. But I waited. This was important.
After the eight weeks, I repotted the six bulbs in new soil. I watered sparingly. And I watched. Almost every day something new happened. Hints of green, the point of a leaf, then, a stock crowned with the tiniest bud.
It’s been four weeks since I brought the bulbs into the light. The largest of the bulbs, the mama, is about to bloom. All the smaller bulbs are in various stages of sending out leaves.
I’ve learned a few things as I’ve watched the amaryllis grow.
These bulbs are packed with nearly everything they need to do what they are supposed to do in life – produce a bloom. They also need sunlight on their leaves and water for their roots. They need rest in darkness and they need time.
You can rush an amaryllis. You can force a bloom. But that will only give you a one-time result. If you don’t follow up with all the other ingredients the bulb needs, it might keep pushing out leaves, but rarely will you get another bloom. And that’s tragic.
Sunshine and darkness. Work and rest. Water. Time. All so necessary for doing what one is supposed to do in an unforced life. That’s what the Amaryllis has taught me.