by Ray Allen

041219-08.jpgI know a group of women who love amaryllis.  Every year about this time, they all order a few, and begin watering them.  These women are all retired, and live at a place called Windfield, which boldly calls itself "Senior Estates" on the pretty carved sign outside.  These senior estates are really lovely apartments in Hadley, Massachusettes.  If you don't know where that is, Hadley is a small town in the western part of the state right next to the more famous towns with names like Amherst and Northampton.  The area is home to "the five colleges", and these colleges are pretty famous, too:  Smith College, UMass at Amherst, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and Mt. Holyoke. 

Many of the retired woman at "Windfield" are retired from the colleges--professors, secretaries, office workers, etc.  But one of the many things they have in common is a love of gardening.

Now in this part of New England, winter is no joke, and sometime in November each year, all activity outside ends.  Gardens are killed dead by frost, and the long winter begins.  This makes these retired gardeners "antsy", and what do they do?  They begin to garden indoors, of course.   Oh, they all have Ivies, African Violets, ferns, and other things as houseplants year round, but when winter comes, they all think of Amaryllis.  The idea of blooming a big, beautiful lily inside while the snow flies outside the window is just too much for these experienced gardeners to resist.  So about now, the Amaryllis frenzy sets in.  They order them, and compare the colors.  They begin the ceremonial watering and oooh and ahhh over the fast growth, even though they've all grown them before.  Soon the big buds will be rising up from the pots, and the colors will begin to show.  Everyone loves the classic reds, and also the Christmas whites, pinks, and the popular red and white striped varieties.  But then, there are the newer bright orange ones, the lush salmons, and of course, the doubles---double red, double white, double pink. For several years now, I've been shipping amaryllis to these women, and they've become our test market for new and different varieties we might offer at  They tell me the results of each one they grow, and believe me, I get all the details.  They send pictures.  They look for changes in growth, and they always notice something new.  This summer, one lady had hers from last year in a dark closet waiting for late fall to come.  She happened to look at it one day in August, and found it in full bud, even though the bud was washed-out white, which she said reminded her of a fish that lives in a cave.  She brought it out, put it in the windowsill, and in one day, it was deep green!  And in a few days, a beautiful big bloom.  The magic of amaryllis! The women are all excited right now, since we just heard that they received this winter's bulbs to grow, so as the weeks go by, I'll give you updates.  I'll be hearing from Olive, Fran, Norma, Dottie, and Shirley.  They'll all have amaryllis stories before long! 
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