Amaryllis, which in Florida blooms in spring, is a favorite holiday gift. The bulbs sold in December are grown in greenhouses and forced to bloom just in time for holiday gift giving. The stunning amaryllis flowers make their way up the first week of March in a tubular stem one to two feet tall. It has a display of trumpet shaped flowers the size of a small plate and anchored by a large bulb. They come in ruby red, orange, pink, white, candy-cane or elegant white.
At the recent Calusa Garden Club’s Fun with Flora and Fauna exhibit, a potted red amaryllis, exhibited by club member Linda Spell, was a show-stopper. According to Linda, it has been in her family for over 50 years; what you could call an heirloom amaryllis.
Linda’s grandmother Mirtie Adelle Williams, from Fairhope, Alabama, lived in an old sea captain’s house, and Linda recalls the beautiful flowers in her yard. Mirtie was adept at fishing. Each time she brought home the day’s catch, sheburied the spoils in her garden, along with crushed eggshells and vegetable peels.
After Mirtie’s death in 1980, Linda’s mom took the amaryllis bulb to Macon, Georgia, and shortly afterwards, she sent the bulb to Linda in Virginia. Linda wintered the amaryllis bulb inside the house. In 1989, Linda and her husband moved to Glendale, California, bringing the bulb with them. When the couple later moved to a sailboat, Linda replanted the bulb in a larger and heavier pot for life in the sailboat’s cockpit. Since 2005 when Linda moved to Marco Island, the amaryllis has lived inside her covered lanai in full sun.
New York Botanical Garden Curator Marc Hachadourian says that several varieties of amaryllis “have thrived and continued to grow for over 100 years, making them heirloom bulbs.”
Linda has generously shared the amaryllis’ many seeds, as well as bulblets from the parent bulb. Amaryllis is a gift that keeps on giving; one bulb planted today can lead to dozens of bulbs, each producing stunning displays of spring colors.