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Amaryllis Bulb

Amaryllis bulb

I have been pulling some of my Amaryllis bulbs out of the basement and get them potted to re-grow, bloom, and brighten my mother’s kitchen. These are amazing plants: start as a baseball-sized bulb; stick it in a 6 inch pot with a little soil; a shoot grows 10- 16 inches, topped with red, white, or pink blooms; plant it in the garden to recover all summer; cut off the leaves and stick it in the basement for the winter to “nap;” and start all over the next spring.

This amazing plant reminds me of my favorite artist-scientist, George Washington Carver. His painting by Betsy Graves Reyneau in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, depicts him as an older man working at one of his favorite hobbies, breeding Amaryllis. At the risk of sounding over dramatic, the arc of Carver’s career was like the Amaryllis – a humble looking origin, opening to a spectacular blossom.

(via National Portrait Gallery)

Because there are many excellent books and articles about Carver, as well as two National Park Service sites in Missouri and Alabama memorializing his life and work, I am going to give only a brief sketch – one that may be at odds with the usual hagiographies.  Read the rest of this entry »


It is not all sweetness and light

To judge by the few blogs I’ve posted about happenings out here in the world of horticulture, one would think that I’m always whistling Zippity-do-dah in the peaceable kingdom. Wonderful as nature is and as much as I love my job, sometimes things do not go as hoped. So here is a review of some of the disagreeable occurrences that occurred in the garden this year, including a warning about what lurks among the plants.

(via IMA Flickr 2004)

Bambi is a browser. This does not mean that deer tend to thumb through magazines at the newsstand instead of making a purchase. No, they browse in the sense of “chew off the buds and tender twigs of trees and shrubs.” Sure, deer eat grass and hostas and other herbaceous plants, but they have a fondness for woody plants enjoying the young stems and sweet buds of fruit trees and shrubs – I need those buds for next spring’s blossoms. And they like to take naps in the flower beds. So, if you see Odocoileus virginianus out in the gardens, please suggest they trot back over to 100 Acres or Crown Hill.  Read the rest of this entry »


A Warm Blankie for the Garden

As Irvin so beautifully illustrated last week, winter has arrived. I have had to break out my heavy coat and glove liners for working in the gardens.  At home, I’ve had to light the furnace and there have been “three-cat-nights.”  But if I see one more Snuggie or Dreamie commercial , I’ll scream.  Read the rest of this entry »


Fauna in the Flora, part 2 – Denizens of the not-so-deep

When I came to the IMA in 2002, one of the areas assigned to me was the Garden Terrace building and the adjacent Four Seasons Garden.  The building was constructed in 1939-40 by J. K Lilly, Jr. as a recreation center for the estate, including an indoor bowling alley plus indoor and outdoor swimming pools. The surrounding gardens were designed by Louisville-based landscape architect Anne Bruce Haldeman (the garden’s restoration and interpretation of the place of women in landscape architecture is a goal of the IMA Environmental and Historic Preservation Division).

4 seasons pool 2006  Read the rest of this entry »


“Goodnight Garden” (sincere apologies to Margaret Wise Brown)

In the great green garden-room
There was an elephant ear alocasia
And some blue and white balloon flowers ….”

Brilliant red of the native sourwood tree with the clear yellow of Photinia in the background.  IMA/Oldfields border garden near orchard.

Brilliant red of the native sourwood tree with the clear yellow of Photinia in the background. IMA/Oldfields border garden near orchard.

Arisaema and sourwood leaves

Arisaema and sourwood leaves

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