As They Say in Jersey, You Get What You Pay For


IMG_2941The aptly named 'Charisma'

The gravest mistake my husband ever made in our marriage occurred about 20 years ago.  We were broke, our 200 year-old house was falling down around us, we were horrible stewards of this beautiful piece of architecture without a dime for repairs, we were working like mad in demanding jobs that didn't pay anything, and there was no room for foolishness in this picture.

"Okay," I sighed one fall, "how much can I spend on tulips?"  My husband is not my keeper.  He just keeps the books.

I don't know if it was pity or impatience or ignorance about the price of tulips that decided his reply.  "Oh, just buy what you want!"

The sun came up that day.  I ordered up a ridiculous, profligate storm and was very, very happy the following May when my yard looked like a circus.  In fact, I have taken that moment as carte blanche on tulip spending ever since, and have only restrained myself once in the ensuing years, in September of 2008, when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and my entirely unrelated business, briefly, dropped off a cliff.  I can never look at a photo of Richard Fuld without thinking, "That man cost me some Single Earlies!"

At the same time as I am totally lacking in any sense of limits when it comes to tulips, I am a complete cheapskate about anything houseplant-like.  So, even though amaryllis seem pretty necessary here in late winter, I've never paid more than $5 for one in Lowe's or Home Depot.  And for $5, you get a fairly blunt-looking variety.  Showy, but not fascinating.

Then, last fall, disappointed by the previous year's Big Box Store amaryllis, some of which didn't even bloom, I decided to order a few $13 bulbs from Brent & Becky's of a variety called 'Charisma.'  The bulbs are much bigger, and the flowers are smaller and much more numerous, in a dramatic combination of red and white.  Wow.  I am so enjoying them at this moment when nothing is yet happening outside except for a few snowdrops on the south side of my neighbor's house.  So much so that I think I may have to experiment with a few more $13 amaryllis next year.

That's the trouble with luxury goods.  Once you spring for them, it's hard to go back.


  1. I grow amaryllis each year for Christmas, and you are right the expensive ones are worth ordering. I picked up a couple at Home Depot this year and they only had a couple of flowers.

  2. I don’t have room for amaryllis, but the Brent and Becky’s link reminded me I want to grow freesias in containers this summer! Will order _after_ I balance the checkbook this weekend…..

  3. It’s interesting… I was in the habit of picking up a few holiday amaryllis pots for my now ex’s mom every year, and they were usually nice enough. And she’d take care of them in order for them to bloom the following year, and it was just never the same.

    Not to thread-jack, but how do you get these to produce the same gorgeous blooms year after year?

  4. Sara, I’m no expert. You might want to check out Elizabeth’s post with advice from somebody who is:

    That said, this is the first year I’ve ever gotten amaryllis to rebloom. I treated them like houseplants I actually cared about and put them outside in their pots in the summer, where they looked healthy and happy. Then, when it started getting cool in early fall and their leaves started dying back, I cut off the leaves, knocked them out of their pots and put them in a dark basement to rest for about two months. Then I potted them up. But again, I am no expert, and some of mine are just blooming now, when I believe Christmas might be ideal.

  5. Never ever let the one who handles the books know how much anything in the garden costs. It is a shock to their nongardening soul. Don’t blow the budget, just don’t let them know the individual prices.

  6. Unfortunately it is true what you say about luxury goods. I got a linen bath towel for Christmas and now plain old cotton is just not good enough. In the garden it isn’t only the quality of the plant, it is the quantity – my particular downfall.

  7. I also grow Amaryllis each year. I take them to school where my 4th and 5th grade students learn to measure the plants. (Then we’ll create compositions about them, too.) The students and I are delighted to see how much they grow daily. I purchase the cheap variety. This year for a change, I planted them in clear bowls. They are now watching the roots as well. I have never let the stalk remain after it bloomed until this year. Now we have a giant seed pod on the top. (There were 2, but we cut one open to observe the insides and the immature seeds. Does anyone know if these seeds will be viable?
    Thanks for sharing all of your information!
    Eileen of CA

  8. I personally try to avoid bulbs at all costs. I am far too lazy to deal with things that only bloom in the spring and I hate how they look after they’ve bloomed: laying on the ground all yucky. I currently have 27 rose bushes, which are great because they bloom all year. I love to admire others bulbs though, so thank you for the pictures!

  9. Plant your amaryllis bulbs outside in the garden – at least we do it here in Oklahoma and they bloom in the summer.

  10. Amanda – where are you located taht bulbs are work androses easy plus over-blooming?!? For me, bulbs are care-free, easy, multiply each year and provide buckets pf blooms outdoors and for cutting. Plant one and forget ’em – no need to fertilize, prune, etc. unless you wish to fuss.

  11. I am here to say that if you want amazing repeat blooms from your amaryllis, don’t bother with small, cheep bulbs from box stores. They don’t begin to compare to the more expensive but (totally worth it) larger bulbs.
    I work at a garden center and 2 years ago I ordered in a minimum order of amaryllis from Netherland Bulb. I ordered the largest size they had, 32-34cm. We only sold through half of the order, so we potted up the remainder. WOW! Not only were we amazed at the fragrance (one named ‘Peacock’ something had a delightful light fragrance)but after we cut the stalk of a spent flower cluster, another would head on up! We easily got 2, if not 3 blooms per bulb. This last season, because of all the word of mouth, we sold out, so guess we’ll increase the order for next year- Happy hippeastrums!

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