Mayflower, Jan. 1902
An Amaryllis Story
Mrs. A. H. Doane, Nova Scotia.
"DOES thee see my Avaryllis?" asked the dear old Quaker lady with whom I was 'spending the day.' "Job Turner's wife, she that was Kate Jones, gave it to me. It blooms every season. Doesn't thee like it?"
I immediately expressed my pleasure at seeing such a fine plant, admired its rich shade of velvety crimson and quite won the little lady's heart by accepting an offset to carry home with me. Our conversation then turned on plants, a congenial topic to us both.
True, my old friend knew little about plants botanically, yet she talked entertainingly and well about the various flowers of the gardens, hedgerows and fields, ''when I was a girl at home in the Old Country." As I listened to her descriptions of her young days as one of a large family, and heard of their early morning walks over the Yorkshire moors and through the leafy lanes of Lancashire, or of their rambles through the Isle of Man, I seemed in fancy to see the Primroses, Cowslips and Daisies blooming in rich luxuriance. The flowers of the cottage gardens too and those of the greenhouses belonging to a 'gentleman's place,' seemed to nod and flash their changeful hues in bewildering, kaleidoscopic variety.
She was a wee, delicate-looking creature yet she spoke unconcernedly of those twenty-mile tramps before breakfast. "Father always made us take a bite of a crust before we left home" she explained. "We never went fasting. We had fine times. There were eleven of us." She spoke, too, of the long three months' voyage to America.'' Brother William was settled out here and kept writing for us to come, and father and mother wanted us all to be together."
Then the talk veered round again to the various Geraniums she cultivated, and to her special pride, the Avaryllis, as she persisted in calling it. At length, I began to tell her something about her much loved plant, gently suggested its proper name was Amaryllis, and spoke of its native home.
She seemed interested though skeptical on some points, as evidenced by the shrug of her shoulders, the little amused laugh and indulgent "ay, ay," with which she received some of my remarks. However, as I was determined the dear little lady should get more than one lot of bloom a season out of that fine, strong bulb, I persisted.
I carefully explained that, with all plants of that family, the flowers came after a season of rest. While blooming new leaves came out, and the period of bloom and leaf growth ended usually about the same time. Then if water was withheld, not absolutely but so that the earth became dry, though not dusty, and the pot set aside for a few weeks, the plant would rest.
Usually the first sign of new growth would be a flower stalk pushing its way up. Then, by watering it and bringing it to a sunny window, the blooming and growing process would be repeated. These alternate periods of rest and growth could be renewed two or three times a year. Thus she would obtain more blossoms and satisfaction than by keeping the plant in a state of constant growth.
We talked, too, of the beautiful new varieties that were then being cultivated, some of them so expensive. She seemed shocked to think of $10 ever being paid for an Amaryllis bulb and slightly incredulous. (I believe at the present time the same variety can be obtained for $2.) So, though somewhat tempted to do so, I abstained from relating in justification of my previous remarks, the details of the historic 'tulip mania.' I found I was possessed of an ardent desire for her good opinion and decided not to try it too far.
When, after a pleasant day, I returned home, she said, as she kindly shook my hand at parting, ''I think, friend, I'll try thy plan with my Avaryllis."
My home being quite a journey from that of my old friend I did not see her again for some time. In the meantime I had sent her a small bulb of Amaryllis Empress of India with instructions to treat it exactly as I had advised for her old one, mentioning that probably it would not bloom for a year at least, young plants usually taking that long to mature and become well-rooted.
When I again saw her both bulbs were blooming and her pride and delight was a joy to see. She told me she put them in the cellar during the cold months, but said the Amaryllis Formosissima had bloomed twice the past season. "Thy plant is a beauty and I thank thee for it," she said in her charming way, "but doesn't thee like my Avaryllis. It's such an old friend; I've had it a long time. Job Turner's wife, she that was Kate Jones, gave it to me and she's dead now."
My dear old friend herself is resting now, but I am firmly sure that, like her loved Amaryllis, she will awake in glorious beauty. Her life to me was an embodiment of the Christian virtues and the older I grow the more I reverence her memory. That is why I, too, love the old Amaryllis Formosissima more than all its rarer, richer brethren, and why I, too, am sometimes tempted to call it 'my Avaryllis.'