One of the best types of gifts is the unexpected. Of these, I have received many — much more than I ever could have deserved. Many times I have relied upon the kindness of strangers.
Receiving gifts, witnessing good deeds, remembering to do for others — all help reaffirm that most of the world is filled with goodness.
Last fall a bag of bulbs arrived at my former workplace. My friend dropped the gift on my doorstep when I was not at home.
“A nice lady brought these to the newspaper for you,” my friend wrote.
Inside a brown paper were several huge dormant chunks of plant life. I guessed they were amaryllis, but was certainly not certain. I also guessed they were from someone in Paradise; The bag said “Black Bear Diner.”
As sometimes happens at my house, the bag sat just inside my doorway. I put things there for which I intend to give immediate attention.
Months later, I did the right thing.
The bulb was fairly unimpressive at first, sitting in a bowl with water and pebbles.
(That bowl was a mistake. One day I realized the plant’s roots had pushed so hard the glass broke).
The children didn’t notice this new thing. There’s a lot to do when the children walk through the threshold, including fish around in their backpacks for homework and listen to my voice telling them to find their seat quietly.
Weeks passed, and no one noticed it was growing. Then the blooms arrived, in late March — deep red and so large you could easily think they were made in China.
The five-gallon plastic pot was just the right size, and then the show as on!
We measured the flowers and touched the fuzz-covered stamens. We wondered if the plant would fall, even after I propped it up with sticks.
After the flowers faded, I wanted more.
I had more bulbs by my front door, but there was a lot going on around Easter. Mainly, we had many surfaces covered with bowls of wheat grass, which became our Easter baskets.
But you can’t let bulbs go to waste. That nice lady form Paradise would want me to enjoy them.
Last weekend I reached for the bag just in time, or too late depending on your perspective. One of the remaining amaryllis bulbs had bloomed — inside the bag. There it was, just past its prime and almost knocking at the brown paper to be fully valued. Other bulbs had emerging green stems.
I took a break from all other things and placed those beauties in pots outside. If they were going to grow despite me, I should give them a little help.
The Gardener’s Supply Company, provides some basic instruction for the big, big bulbs. None of the instructions suggested keeping the bulbs in a paper bag for nine months. The information also suggested a heavy pot so the big plant doesn’t topple.
Bury the bulb ¾-inch under the soil and water lightly until either a flower stalk or leaves emerge. Next, water regularly. Give indirect light (or place in a classroom). Turn the pot every once in a while to encourage the plant not to lean. In six to eight weeks, the show begins.
Just like any other bulb, deadheading will help more energy to be directed to the bulb for next year. Amaryllis can also last about as long in a vase as on the plant, this source of garden information states. After flowering, let the flower fade, and cut the stalk to about an inch from the top of the bulb. Continue to water and feed with houseplant fertilizer. In August, stop watering and let the foliage die until the pot is completely dry. Then, store in a paper bag until you’re ready to drop the bulb on someone’s doorstep.
Thank you, unknown woman, for your kindness. Your gesture brought joy to many.