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A gardener's diary traces the blooming of an African amaryllis

The African amaryllis is one of the loveliest of all house-blooming flowers. Equally important, it is easy to grow and fascinating to watch. Here are some excerpts from a gardener's diary:

Nov. 8. Found anaryllis bulbs, packaged with pot and planting soil, at a drugstore (of all places). Couldn't resist buying one for Mike's birthday. After much wishy-washing, chose apple-blossom pink among the many colors.

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Nov. 11. Gave the amaryllis to Mike, who preferred the new tripod for his camera. Nevertheless, following the instructions that came with the bulb (as big as a tennis ball), he set it in water to soak overnight.

Nov. 12. Planted the bulb, leaving the top one-third bare, and set it near the south window of the living room.

Dec. 10. Uprooted the amaryllis to see if it was a dud. Noting the proliferation of roots, hastily returned the bulb to its pot and profuse apologies.

Dec. 14. At last somthing green has started to grow.

Dec. 15. It's a flower bud, not a leaf, and is shooting up so fast we can almost see it growing.

Jan. 7. The flower stalk is now 20 inches high and the bud has begun to open. Have planned a party for next week to show off our flowering amaryllis.

Jan. 9. After growing so fast the flower is opening with agonizing slowness.

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Jan. 10. The corolla has separated to reveal fourm separate flowers rolled up inside it.

Jan. 11. The flowers have begun to swell and separate.

Jan. 14. Our guests enjoyed the party but were unimpressed by four unopened flowers.

Jan. 16. Two flowers began to open in the late afternoon. By midnight, when we abadoned the watch, they were bellshaped and the centers were visible.

Jan. 17. Two lovely pink-and-white flowers, each six inches across. The other two are swelling up to open.

Jan. 20. The amaryllis is open in allits glory. Four beautiful lilylike flowers at right angles to one another.Mike used his birthday tripod to photograph his birthday amaryllis and declared it well worth the wait.

Jan. 27. End of show. With a pang of regret, followed instructions to cut the flower stalk to two inches above the bulb. Leaves have started to grow from bulb.

May 3. Dug hole in a semi-shady garden spot, fertilized and lined it with peat moss. Installed whole plant, now with long graceful leaves, covering one inch above pot.

Sept., 15. Dug up the amaryllis pot. Cutting off leaves and shaking off excess soil, set it in a cool dark place in the cellar and left it to rest.

Nov. 11. Brought the amaryllis upstairs and started the cycle over again.

During the fall amaryllis are sold in nursery catalog and garden-supply stores (as well as drugstores!) for $5 to $10. The price is small for the pleasure they bring. They make beautiful gifts, but since the bulb is not hardy , it should not be sent long distances in the dead of winter.

If no one else is handy, but one for yourself.

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