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The romance of summer bulbs
When I think of summer flowering bulbs, it conjures up images of frilled petalled flowers, demanding to be seen. From bright colours to delicate hues, blushing among the green leaves. Bulbs have been romanticised over the centuries and as the meaning of the word Amaryllis so aptly describe in Greek translation “amarysso”, which means “to sparkle”, Greek mythology tells a tale of a shepherdess who shed her own blood to prove her true love, which inspired the naming of the bright red flower of the Amaryllis.
In recent times though, we don’t have to go to these extremes to prove our love, and with the multitude of new Sonatini hybrids derived from this plant, a gift of love in summer is at your fingertips. With hybrid names like Amaryllis Sonatini Harlequin and Sonatini Lemon Sorbet, you will invite summer straight into your garden or home. These hybrids are all true miniature amaryllis that produce a cluster of flowers, each individual flower being up to 10cm wide. These hybrids also have the potential of producing multiple stems. So just imagine, a compact bulb with multiple stems and nests of flowers on each of those stems in colours that not even oil painters could conjure up.
Often we think that having such prized possessions will take much “phaphing” over or extreme special conditions. Sonatini hybrids, because of its manageable size, can be grown straight in your garden, or in a beautiful glass bowl in your home.
They are among the easiest, fastest and most spectacular of all plants to grow, producing huge blooms in less than five weeks from planting.
In the garden:
- Plant the bulb without delay, before sprouting takes place.
- Choose a location with sufficient sunlight.
- Excess shade will result in extended leaves and reduce long-term flowering.
- Plant with the neck exposed.
- Sonatinis in garden beds look best in same- colour groups of 5 or more.
In a container:
- Pot the bulb in any size container into which it will fit, provided it has a drainage hole. Use a good, well-draining potting soil.
- The soil should be light, yet nutritious, and contain no tree bark or fresh manure. Sand can be added for improved drainage.
- Hold the bulb so that its roots hang down into the pot, then fill in around the bulb with the potting medium.
- Firm it down so that no air pockets remain among the roots.
- The nose of the bulb should be above the pot’s rim, with its shoulder protruding above the soil surface.
After planting, water well and firm down the medium again. Roots and bulb should be seated firmly, but take care not to damage the roots. Place your potted Amaryllis in a light, constantly-warm position, as this will encourage immediate growth. Any room in which a normal summer home temperature of around 20°C is maintained, is ideal.
Never expose the bulb to temperatures below freezing. As the first floral stalk lengthens, rotate pot through a half turn every day or so. This keeps the stem from bending towards the strongest light source.
After the initial watering, do not water again during the first week. For the following two weeks, the soil should be kept only slightly moist by adding tepid water around the bulb if necessary and any water found standing in the saucer should be emptied out. Over-watering will inhibit root formation. A slightly dry medium will stimulate re-growth of the root system. Once the flower stalk is well out of the bulb, water more frequently.
Faded blooms may be pulled away from the top of the stalk by breaking the pedicels (small stalks between the main stem and each flower). Should you wish to maintain the plant after flowering, for re-growth and blooming next year transfer it to the garden in a sunny position.
In the garden bed water every 4 days, in a pot every 2 days. Feed it with bulb food and old compost occasionally. If necessary, stake the foliage and stalks. Keep the bulb well-watered and fed until late Autumn. Then stop watering and allow the bulb to enter dormancy.
You may leave the bulb in the garden if that location is expected to receive little or no water through the winter. Alternatively, lift the bulb, pot and all and place it on its side in a dry, dark, cool place. A temperature of around 13°C ideal. Allow the bulb to enjoy a well-earned rest, without food or water for three months. After this period, cut off the old foliage.
Remove the bulb from the pot and wash the bulb and the roots carefully in water. Now repeat the planting process as before. With proper care, it will flower again in spring.
May be harmful if eaten by humans or animals – Keep away from children and pets