Each year, I plant amaryllis bulbs for the holidays. I plant them for my house and for gifts. The recipients of these gifts vary, but their reaction to these gifts do not. All—family, friends, teachers, co-workers—who receive one of these dramatic plants are delighted and curious. There is something magical about a flower growing in the middle of winter. And there is something amazing about a large flower that grows quickly. The plant changes every day—shoots emerge from the bulb, sometimes growing many inches in a day, then form buds that open into beautiful trumpets. All this happens in as little as 4 weeks.
I have given amaryllis to teachers who instantly turn their presence in the classroom into a math lesson: Find a ruler, let's measure its growth. When I brought a plant into the office at Brown Alumni Magazine, the entire staff all stood around talking about it. Someone in the group produced a ruler and stuck it into the pot to measure the flower stem. For days after that, regular updates could be heard in the office: "It's grown another inch!"
An early inspiration for this holiday tradition was a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
in Boston. If you visit the museum in December—and you really should—each stone window sill is lined with red amaryllis plants in terra-cotta pots. It is an incredible sight. Just beautiful.
This year I am sharing this tradition with my daughter. Aurora loves to arrive anywhere bearing gifts—if not chocolate chip cookies, then an amaryllis will do. I buy the bulbs and we plant them. I have so much fun sharing this with her. Maybe I'll have to take her to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum this year and share my original inspiration.