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.