If you are a gardener, chances are you have received as a gift one of those baseball-sized bulbs we know as amaryllis, which produces huge, in-your-face flowers that are usually red, but sometimes white, or-less often-pink. Yet, while we've all been happily growing them, the botanists have been busy, too, and as well as developing many new flower colors and sizes, they've reassigned this tropical plant to the genus Hippeastrum.
But whatever the plants are called (and since we're not being formal, let's stick to amaryllis), I love them all. Few things inspire me with such wonder as watching the flower tip emerge, followed by the thin green stem, which begins its steady climb toward the ceiling, like some fairy-tale beanstalk. And then the flowers burst forth-often five to a single stalk. I like to place the potted bulb on a table so that the flower head is at eye level. Awesome hardly begins to describe the blooming plant.
Generally the gift-boxed sorts have dinner-plate-sized, flaming red or snowy white flowers. These are definitely beautiful, but if, like me, you've had your amaryllis itch scratched once too often by blooms in these obvious colors, you're probably ready for the peach-colored sorts, or the blushing pinks, or even the ones that have red- and white-striped or splashed blooms. Or go straight for the most alluringly curious amaryllis of all, the Cybisters, with blooms like giant spiders in shades of red, white, and green! Each flower is so elegantly and perfectly formed that it is quite simply a marvel of Mother Nature's grand design.