Each Autumn, big, beautiful Amaryllis bulbs show up in stores alongside spring blooming bulbs. And every year I hesitate, full of guilt about the indulgence at a time when I have so many houseplants to shift indoors for the winter. However, once the snow is settled over the garden and the world has lost its colour, that first bloom is greeted like a miracle unfolding. We watch the developing bud with anticipation and when it opens we circle around it with our cameras, taking in every crumb of colour and life while we can. No summer flower receives such hyper-gleeful fanfare.
The voodoo lily’s (Amorphophallus bulbifer) reputation as a real stinker precedes it, and I have to admit that I have always been a bit hesitant about introducing something that smells badly to my home. Still, as the bulb drew closer to blooming, it was curiosity, and the worry that I would miss the event that made me bring it right up to my kitchen door.
On the morning that it opened, Davin woke up before me (as he does) and opened the kitchen window to let in a breeze. He says he was instantly whacked in the face by a terrible smell. Within an hour it had permeated the entire house!
I believe it started with a small pot of Albuca shawii, a diminutive yellow flower that dances on thin stems in the breeze. It’s delicate leaves and stems are slightly rough to the touch and they have an unexpectedly nice, somewhat herbal scent. As a garden plant, it serves no real purpose except that it looks good and makes me happy, a fact that is neither here nor there now, but one that mattered a lot then. I’m still a small space gardener, but back then I was an even smaller space gardener and my primary garden space was a roof. There was no ramshackle shed or basement in which to hide the mess or store dormant plants. Every inch counted and if a plant didn’t serve at least two functions, it probably wasn’t welcome.
Since that first pot of albuca (which I still have in the same pot years later), I have gone on to grow all sorts of bulbs in containers of all shapes and sizes with very little effort. I look forward to their yearly appearance and wonder now, why on earth I deprived myself for so long.
The other day I wrote about hardening off onion and leek seedlings. This week I am planting out onion and shallot “sets”. Planting sets may seem redundant since I already have seedlings on the go, but I assure you there is a method to this madness.
In my house, we cook with shallots and onions everyday and we never seem to have enough. This year I plan to step up my game and grow more than ever. I don’t want them to be ready for harvest at the same time. Now THAT would be madness. Starting from a range of sources (seed, sets, and even store-bought transplants) allows me to have a steady stream of edible alliums (as well as tender onion greens) available for use in our meals throughout the growing season and well beyond. Not only have I already been using the fresh greens clipped from my onion seedlings, but I have even harvested some of the full-sized perennial bunching onions that I planted last fall! Over the years I have found that if I take care to plant at intervals and protect the plants, I can have some form of edible allium available almost year-round!
Every once and a while I go into an old folder of photographs and randomly choose an image to post about. Today it is this Guernsey Lily (Nerine bowdenii) ‘Isabel’ that bloomed in my garden this past fall.
I originally bought the bulb in a late-season clearance bin in 2011, planted it in the sandy soil at the back of the garden and completely forgot about it until it made itself known in late-2012 when a flower spike poked its head above the ground.