08 November 2007
Amaryllis and attempting art
There are a lot of houseplants that I simply won't try to grow because they like it too hot/cold/bright/humid/insert excuse here. That's not to say I don't have successes with indoor plants. I have this marvelous jade tree (Crassula argentea) that I've nursed from a tiny cutting to a fairly hefty and shapely plant, along with a host of other cacti and succulents. I have flowering kalanchoes and cyclamens in my office, which is slightly cool, and a phalenopsis orchid that continues to thrive and bloom despite my forgetting to water it or otherwise tend it for weeks on end...and a wide assortment of other plants, some foliage, some flowering.
But as we edge closer to THAT time of year, one of the plants that gives me great joy is the amaryllis. There's something exotic, aloof, and yet soothing about them, and I like their bombastic ways of being. It appeals to my sense of je ne sais quoi the way a bulb will sit quietly for days, even weeks, in a pot, just being...and then suddenly, that green shoot appears, and you can almost watch the flower stalk grow...and then there are those glorious, trumpet shaped flowers. What's not to love?
Amaryllis are botanically called Hippeastrum, and aren't really amaryllis at all: although they both are in the family Amaryllidaceae, Hippeastrum are from South America and Mexico, while the Amaryllis, of which there is ONE species, is from South Africa. We still all mistakenly call those huge bulbs amaryllis, myself included, obviously. Here's a bit of trivia with which to impress your friends at your next garden meeting--Hippeastrum mean's horseman's star in Greek, but I have yet to discover just why someone gave this plant that name. The flowers are starshaped, true...but where does the horse come in? http://www2.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
I put my amaryllis outdoors every summer and normally bring them back indoors in September, consigning them to the cool and dark basement to rest for a couple of months before bringing them back upstairs; they normally flower around Christmas or in January. But I was late this year in moving them, so they're still in their rest period, forcing me to have to purchase a couple of new bulbs yesterday while I was visiting Halifax Seed.
Growing hippeastra or if you wish to call them, Amaryllis is pretty easy. I normally set the bulb up to its base in a bowl of water for a few hours to hydrate the roots and 'wake up' the bulb; then I plant in good potting soil, in a pot that is wide enough to support the plant when it gets top-heavy with blooms, but not so wide that the bulb is overwhelmed by the soil. Don't cover the bulb completely--up to its shoulders, the widest part of the bulb before it starts narrowing to the neck, is good. You can also put them in a dish on wet pebbles, but I prefer to do this with hyacinths, narcissus or crocus rather than amaryllis, because they're not so large and apt to flop over. Sometimes it takes the bulb only a few days to begin growing--other times I've had them sit and sulk for a couple of months before leaping into life. After the flowers have faded, I cut the stem off and just enjoy the leaves until summer, when the plants go outdoors again. I HAVE had flowers go to seed, but I confess I've yet to try growing one from seed. Maybe when I win that lottery and get my conservatory....
And now for something completely different.
I have always maintained that I cannot draw or paint, despite the fact that I used to do adequate illustrations for papers in my botany and other plant-related classes at college; and despite the fact that countless people have assured me that anyone CAN learn to draw or paint.
Well, it's time to try. I'm only interested in creating portraits of plants, because I love botanical illustrations. Last year I bought a book by The Eden Project called Botanical Illustration Course, and then I spent all kinds of time convincing myself I couldn't possibly do this.
Then the very talented artist Val Webb posted a tutorial on botanical drawing and watercolour on her website the other day...and that was it for me. What she wrote and showed made such SENSE, even to me...so I toddled off to a store, got paper and brushes and paints--not the most expensive, but decent quality, or so I'm told, to start with--and am just getting ready to maybe embark on this new adventure.
It's the flowers, you see. And the leaves, and seeds, and buds and roots...everything about plants gives such joy, and all that colour...so I'll try playing with paints and see what happens. At the very least, it will pull me away from my computer or from reading and into doing something. And it just might brighten up the grey months ahead.
Don't expect to see me in a gallery any century soon, though--at least, not displaying stuff. Buying other people's work, sure thing!