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A Note about Hippeastrum 

Living in New England the year round, with our tiresomely long winter stretching miles before us, followed by a typically late and fugitive spring, we can become easily wrapped in those winter-blues. Fortunately for garden-makers, our thoughts give way to winter scapes of bare limbs and berries, Gold Finches and Cardinals, and plant catalogues to peruse. If you love to paint and write about flowers as do I, winter is a splendid time of year for both, as there is hardly any time devoted to the garden during colder months. I believe if we cared for a garden very much larger than ours, I would accomplish little of either writing or painting, for maintaining it would require just that much more time and energy.

Coaxing winter blooms is yet another way to circumvent those late winter doldrums. Most of us are familiar with the ease in which amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs will bloom indoors. Placed in a pot with enough soil to come to the halfway point of the bulb, and set on a warm radiator, in several week’s time one will be cheered by the sight of a spring-green, pointed-tipped flower stalk poking through the inner layers of the plump brown bulbs. The emerging scapes provide a welcome promise with their warm-hued blossoms, a striking contrast against the cool light of winter.

Perhaps the popularity of the amaryllis is due both to their ease in cultivation and also for their ability to dazzle with colors of sizzling orange, clear reds and apple blossom pink. My aunt has a friend whose family has successfully cultivated the same bulb for decades. For continued success with an amaryllis, place the pot in the garden as soon as the weather is steadily warm. Allow the plant to grow through the summer, watering and fertilizing regularly. In the late summer or early fall and before the first frost, separate the bulb from the soil and store the bulb, on its side, in a cool dry spot—an unheated basement for example. The bulb should feel firm and fat again, not at all mushy. After a six-week rest, the amaryllis bulb is ready to re-pot and begin its blooming cycle again. Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Coaxing Winter Blooms

Click above photo to see slide show

The taxonomy of the genus Hippeastrum is complicated. Hippeastrum is a genus of about 90 species and over 600 hybrids and cultivars, native to topical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina north to Mexico and the Caribbean. For some time there was confusion amongst botanists over the generic names Hippeastrum and Amaryllis, which led to the application of the common name “amaryllis” when referring to Hippeastrum. The genera Amaryllis refers to bulbs from South Africa.


Amaryllis ‘Orange Sovereign’

Amaryllis ‘Orange Sovereign’ will be in full bloom by Christmas Day!

For tips on coaxing winter blooms, including forcing bulbs and flowering tree and shrub branches, see Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!  David R. Godine, Publisher.

Snow Dome

For the past week, while at home and in between holiday baking, at different times throughout the day under varying degrees of low winter light, I’ve been taking photos of this snowiest of “snow storms.” The light coming through the living room windows along with the Christmas tree lights created myriad fascinating effects.

Click any photo to see the complete slideshow.

From wiki: Precisely when the first snow globe (also called a “water globe,” “snow storm,” or “snow dome”) was made remains unclear, but they appear to date from France during the early 19th century. They may have developed as a successor to the glass paperweight, which had become popular a few years earlier. Snow globes appeared at the Paris Universal Expo of 1878, and by 1879 at least five companies were producing snow globes and selling them throughout Europe.

Christmas Whimsy

Vintage Christmas Decorations ~ snowflake, cupcake tree, circus Noël, nutcracker frog prince, and music box Santa.

Happy Holidays!

Butterfly Eyes

Eye to Eye

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

A butterfly’s eyes are relatively enormous, spherical structures referred to as compound eyes. Consisting of thousands of hexagonal shaped omatidea, each omatidea, or mini-sensor, is directed at a slightly different angle from the others. Collectively they are directed forwards, backwards, left, right, up, and down. For this reason, butterflies are able to see in nearly every direction simultaneously.

Hackberry Emperor Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly Eye

Vision is well developed in butterflies and most species are sensitive to the ultraviolet spectrum. The ability to see colors may be widespread but has been demonstrated in only a few species.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly