I never had my own amaryllis. Nobody ever gave me one, and I wasn’t likely to buy one for myself. Whenever I buy an indoor plant, all the other plants in the shop pitch in for the funeral luncheon.
But this Christmas someone gave me a bulb. And a kit. There was a little pot and a hard little puck of soil that magically fluffed out to fill the little pot, and then you set the big bulb in the little pot so that it sticks partway out. It looked like soup from the Middle Ages, the kind that’s mostly boar’s head poking out of a little moat of broth. Meat joints are flung to the mongrels and serving wenches overfill their dresses. It was a big-ass bulb, is what I’m saying.
You toss in a dab of water and stand back.
Now, I have sung about an amaryllis. Our madrigal group used to hack through that one. Not much to the lyrics: Adieu, sweet amaryllis, For since to part your will is. I like making rhymes, myself, so I’m familiar with how clunky a lyric can get when you’re trying too hard to make a rhyme work. The composer John Wilbye was looking at his amaryllis, and all he came up with for a rhyme was “Willis,” but he didn’t know anyone named Willis, so he tried out Do tell, sweet amaryllis, you know where Mother’s will is? but that didn’t make sense, so he ended up with “since to part your will is” and then he had to say good-bye to it. Anyway, the song was a hit. Then he went on to write Farewell, my dear bergenia, For soon we won’t be seenya, and Alas sweet marigold, You old.
The big bulb didn’t do anything for a few days and then a little green knob poked up. Well, I’m familiar with the miracle of plant growth. I have seen entire gardens fur up with weeds if you turn your back for a few hours. My Echium “Mr. Happy” shoots out a ten-foot spire of flowers audibly. If you don’t yank a holly at the two-inch-tall stage you’ll have to take a chainsaw to it. Plants are amazing.
But that’s the thing about amaryllises: people like them because they grow in the dead of winter when nothing else botanical is happening. So they really stand out. You can’t look away. My amaryllis thrust itself straight up, a big, turgid, meaty thing it was, and there was something fleshy swelling at the top, and ultimately four fat, lusty flowers exploded out of it and presented to the world like baboons at a sloth convention. I stared in wonder and embarrassment. What in the natural world pollinates such a thing? I visualized a big bumbly bee lumbering in there like a fat old dude manspreading in a sauna in a tiny towel, his entire reproductive apparatus swinging among the stamens.
It’s rude, especially in the winter. There should be pajamas on that thing.
And if it were not cocky enough, lo, a little batch of strappy leaves yearned below it like an entourage.
I know what comes next, because I sang the song. To part its will is. It’s going to fold up and go away. If it takes longer than four hours, I’ll have to call the doctor.
How about, "you came to me from Phyllis" or "are you tall as the hill is?", or "you make me sing like Mel Tillis".
See what happens to my brain when I read what you write? Seems to happen twice a week. What bird upon the window sill is. Someone help me!
…You were to blame for my siphillis … you are Maynard to my Dobie Gillis….
Jono! You have much to answer for!
Oh do NOT stop there.
lactobacillus acidophilus…this started out so inauspicious. You might want to know about annus mirabilis.
My ex-girlfriend’s dad gave me one as a parting gift and some idiot told me I needed to keep it cold for the winter. I stuck it in my shed, which is the next best thing to the great outdoors. And it was dead come spring. Maybe I’ll give it another try. My ex-girlfriend’s dad and I got on fine, even after she sent me packing. Sure wish I hadn’t killed his bequest,
I think it speaks very well of you to have an ex-girlfriend's father give you a parting gift.
dost though know what twill is?
And if it still is?
But lo, the Texas chill is
going to make someone rich as the hills is
Thought I would let you know that the Madrigal video doesn't show up in the mobile version of your post, only in the web version. If you scroll down to the bottom of your page (on my iphone, and, I presume, other mobile phones) you can switch to web version or mobile version.
I DO want to know that–unfortunately I am phone-stupid and don't quite understand what I should do about it (even though you told me). I'll look into it later.
I don’t know what this pill is
I don’t know where the grill is
And I forgot who Phil is
But a pickle fine the dill is!
A genuine poet heard from.
I love this post. You go, Amaryllis. Delight Murre. xoxo
Well I love you, so we're even.
Murr, your prose is a joy. I needed a laugh today! But now I am wondering what you might have written had a friend given you a gift of Amorphophallus titanum, which my botany prof drew sideways on the room-wide blackboard so it would fit.
I am very much looking forward to looking that mofo up. Thanks.
The flowers will last longer than four hours, probably even four days and they come in other colours too. You'll have that bulb for years to come. You could buy several and have a whole Amaryllis patch in your garden.
Your Australia garden, maybe!
Laughed all the way through this!
Well, I laughed. We did the same as you this winter, purchased the big bulb (in its tiny pot) and it sprang to life like a flamboyant pole vaulter, literally committing suicide, falling to the floor late one evening while I was asleep. The thud woke me—burglars, I thought but too lazy and tired to investigate. Replanted that monster the following morning in a bigger pot with a stake inserted for emotional support. I’ll do it again next year.
I was watching mine flag–let's call it flag–and saw it the moment it keeled over onto the counter, but it didn't fall far. I propped it in a window.
…presented like baboons at a sloth convention ..
Thanks. I needed that today.
So you are going to put it out somewhere it might be pollinated… completing the circle of life?
I like these. My brother used to keep a small collection that he kept for a few years. I will do it again. They are so nice.
One of the few good things about the deep south is you can grow amaryllis outdoors. They're a common spring flower once you get down to USDA zone 8.